Kiwis are flightless, ground-dwelling birds that are native to New Zealand that happen to share their name with a fruit. Although they are not well-known in other parts of the world, they can be seen in some zoos and they are so beloved by new Zealanders that people from the island nation proudly call themselves “Kiwis.”
The largest kiwis stand about 18 inches in height and weigh roughly 7 pounds (roughly the size of a chicken) The females tend to be larger than the males and couples usually remain monogamous for life. Kiwis generally lay one egg per season since the eggs are quite large. A Kiwi egg can weigh up to one-quarter the weight of the mother (about six times the size of a chicken egg)! This means that Kiwis are the birds that lay the biggest eggs in proportion to their size in the world! Kiwi eggs incubate for 63-92 days depending on the size and variation of kiwi.
Kiwi are naturally nocturnal and shy birds. However, they can become quite used to people and have been known to adapt to changing conditions. For example, although they prefer to come out at night, kiwis in sanctuaries have been seen roaming around in the sunlight. Kiwis have a marvelous sense of smell (a rare trait in birds) and they are the only bird that has nostrils at the end of their beaks! Kiwis generally search for food in grasslands. They eat seeds, grubs, worms, fruit, and some vegetation. They have also been known to eat crawfish, eels and even small amphibians such as frogs!
Although kiwis are adaptable and beloved by people, the species is in trouble. It is estimated that only about 5% of the hatchlings make it into adulthood due to predators and loss of habitat. Housecats are particularly deadly to kiwis and in some areas of New Zealand people are asked to keep their pet cats indoors at night to help save the birds! In response to the kiwi crisis, many rescue organizations and zoos in New Zealand have started funds and “Save the Kiwi” programs. These programs usually include providing kiwis with protected areas in which to live and also the establishment of breeding programs that will help increase their numbers.
Kiwi are iconic to New Zealand and it is encouraging to see hard work and dedication being put toward their continued survival. By raising awareness of these rare and adorable creatures (see the video--about a minute in) more support will be gained for the causes to save them and ensure that future generations will have the pleasure of sharing the earth with kiwi birds.