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Thursday, April 11, 2013

K is for Kiwi


Nooot quite.  There are five species of kiwi bird: Brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli), Rowi (Apteryx rowi), Tokoeka (Apteryx australis), Great spotted kiwi or roroa (Apteryx haastii), and Little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii).  All five species are found only in New Zealand.

Kiwi are pretty unique birds.  They are ground-dwellers and so have very small wings, but very strong legs.  They also have hair-like feathers and no tail.   Kiwi also possess a unique feature in that their nostrils are at the tips of their beaks, which they use to search for invertebrates in the soil and leaf litter.


Kiwi mate for life and are strongly territorial.  Females are larger than males in order to support the large egg that she develops.  The eggs are up to 1/3 of the size of the female, looking something like this...



And just so you get a better idea of size, a kiwi is about the size of a chicken.  And they lay that size egg.  Chicks hatch out of the egg, usually incubated by dad, after 70-85 days.  It takes approximately 5 years for kiwi to reach maturity and they can live from 25-50 years, depending on species.


Kiwi face the same dangers as many other species across the world.  Both the rowi and Haast tokoeka are the most endangered due to their small populations.  Next highest threatened are the great spotted and brown kiwi.  The little spotted kiwi is classified as "at risk (recovering)."  Kiwi continue to face risks from habitat loss and invasive predators.  The New Zealand government actively supports the conservation of these species as it is considered a treasure to the entire country.