Kiwi birds are flightless birds, native to New Zealand, but they are also endangered. These birds are New Zealand’s mascots and their name comes after their cry -- “kee-wee kee-wee”. Because Kiwi birds are a national symbol of New Zealand, the people from this country are known all over the world as “Kiwis”.
The kiwi bird was used as national symbol since the 19th century when it appeared on the New Zealand regimental badges. Later, this symbol was used by the Kiwi Shoe Polish company and during the First World War, New Zealand soldiers were referred to as “kiwis” for the first time.
The Maori thought that the kiwi are under protection of the god of the forest called Tane Mahuta and they used its feathers for their ceremonials. At that time, they hunted this bird, but today, they only take the feathers of those kiwi birds who died naturally or in an accident.
Kiwi birds are easy to be recognised due to their interesting features. They have small and short wings, long beaks, which are approximately 1/3 of the size of their body length, they have an extraordinary sense of smell, somethi8ng uncommon for birds and they are also the only birds in the world that have nostrils at the end of their beaks. Additionally, these creatures have thick brown hair-like feathers and no tail, which are also very interesting features.
Today, there are 5 known species of kiwi birds:
- the Brown Kiwi
- the Okarito Brown Kiwi
- the Little Spotted Kiwi
- the Great Spotted Kiwi
- the North Island Brown Kiwi
The Brown Kiwi or Tokoeka are more a common species of kiwis and are found mostly in the south of the South Island. Their feathers are brown as the name says and the Brown Kiwi bird has three subspecies:
1. the Stewart Island Tokoeka
2. the Haast Tokoeka
3. the Northern Fiordland Tokoeka and Southern Fiordland Tokoeka
The Okarito Brown Kiwi or the Rowi was discovered as a new species in 1994 and its plumage has a greyish hue and it can also have white feathers on its face. It can be spotted in small locations of the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Both female and male incubate and the females are able to lay up to three eggs in the same season.
The Little Spotted Kiwi is very small, being very vulnerable when facing its predators. This is the main reason why today, this species is extinct on the mainland. The female lays the eggs, but only the male incubates it. Plus, authorities tried to save this bird from extinction by introducing it to predator-free islands, the results being a population of approximately 50 birds on each island.
The Great Spotted Kiwi or Roroa is the largest bird of all Kiwi bird species, featuring grey-brown plumage with lighter band and is more spotted in the mountainous areas of Nelson and in the north of the West Coast in the Southern Alps. Both the female and the male incubate the eggs.
The North Island Brown Kiwi is found mainly in the North Island of New Zealand. This species is more resistant than the other Kiwi bird species. Its plumage features red-brown streaks, being also spiky. Usually, the female lays two eggs which are incubated only by the male.
It doesn’t matter about which species we discuss, generally, these amazing creatures live in subtropical and temperate environments, as well as beach forests, but they can also adapt to various environments such as mountainous areas.