Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Kiwi bird

The kiwi is a deliscious green fruit but this essay is about the native New Zealand bird. Before the arrival of humans in New Zealand, very few species of animals existed in the small pacific island. So it is known that the kiwi hasn't originated in New Zealand. It was for sometime thought that the Kiwi's closest family is the Moa but later on DNA examinations have been carried out and the results show that the Moa's genes are much more alike the Ostrich of Africa while the genes of the Kiwi are more simmilar to that of the Australian Emu. So it is thought that the Kiwi is a import of the neighbouring country. 

Meanwhile, the Kiwi is a proud representative of its country. The figure is seen on the coins, on military badges and the name is also tagged on many companies and organizations. 

During the Second World War, the phrase "kiwi" was used to refer to the New Zealander soldiers and nowadays the term is used much more vastly to replace the word "new zealand". 

Kiwis are classified as ratites, a category of flightless birds, and are found in 5 main species, all of which are endangered. The species and some of the characteristics are shown in the table bellow: 


Specie Name
45 cm
3.3 kg
North Island
25 cm
1.4 kg
Kapiti Island
23 cm
1.2 kg
North & South Island
44 cm
3.2 kg
South Island
40 cm
2.5 kg
North Island

A interesting fact in regards with the physical features of kiwis is that on average, females tend to be slightly heavier and bigger than the males!

Kiwis prefer living in habitats such as beech forests and sub tropical temperate areas but due to the existence of so many mammalian predators, they are forced to inhabit a wider range of location such as mountain areas. 

These birds are nocturnal in the wild but in sanctuaries where the fright of predators isn't existent, they are seen in daylight as well.

The dining menu of a kiwi is a fairly wide list, consisting of seeds, invertebrates, grubs, crayfish, fruit and sometimes small amphibians. The nostrils of a kiwi are placed at the tip of the beak unlike many other birds. This makes it easy to eat worms under the ground without seeing or sensing them and rather by smelling them. Kiwis are aided with very strong sense of smell but a rather week sense of sight. 

Kiwis are one of the exceptions in the birds category that doesn't have a preen gland. Preening is the compressed word for personal grooming and a preen gland is a gland which secretes a type of waxy material which acts as both a water resistant layer and a anti-parasite layer. Too bad!

Once bonded, the male and female kiwi stick live the entire life together as monogamous couple, meaning owning one partner in regards of marriage and reproduction. Loyal birds! 
It takes about a month for a completely developed egg to form in the female kiwis body. During this time, the female must eat 2-3 times the amount which she usually consumed but in the last few days prior to the laying of the egg, the egg will have taken up so much space that the female's stomach won't have enough room to host any food, meaning she must fast!

Speaking of eggs, the egg of a kiwi is a greenish whitish color and can weigh up to a quarter the weight of the female kiwi.And being approximately the same size as an average chicken, the kiwi egg is about 6 times bigger than a chicken egg. To add up this piece of information, the kiwi bird has the largest egg out of all birds in comparison to its body size. 
Anyway, after the egg is laid, both the male and the female will take care of the egg. Again, very loyal. The Great spotted kiwi is the only exception which leaves all the responsibilities on the female's shoulders. The incubation period is about 2 months.

The Maori once hunted the kiwi bird as a food source and to make ceremonial cloaks but now consider themselves the guardians of the flightless bird and only use the feathers of the killed kiwis rather than the hunted ones; meaning those killed in road accident, etc.