New Zealand's most iconic bird: The kiwi
The kiwi is New Zealand’s most iconic bird, with even the locals calling themselves ‘Kiwis’ and a picture of one on our $1 coins.
So what is it about the kiwi that’s so special? And where can you go to see one?
About New Zealand’s national bird
There are actually five different species of kiwi in New Zealand, and all of them are endangered. There is the brown kiwi, the rowi, the tokoeka, the great spotted kiwi and the little spotted kiwi.
Altogether, there are only 70,000 left in the country, and estimates suggest that we are losing as many as 27 every week to threats such as stoats, rats, ferrets, dogs, wild cats, and even humans.
These cute little birds are very special for many reasons, one of which is that they have one of the largest egg-to-weight body ratios of any bird. On average, an egg is about 15 per cent of a female’s body weight.
As kiwis have short stubby wings and cannot fly, they belong to a group of ancient birds called the ratites. Their closest relatives are emus , cassowaries, elephant bird and the now-extinct New Zealand bird, the moa.
Best places to see the kiwi
At the moment, about 20 per cent of the kiwi population in New Zealand is under management, where the chicks have a much higher chance of survival than in the wild.
Kiwi are nocturnal and very good at hiding, which means you will most likely only ever see a kiwi in captivity. You can visit them in zoos such as those in Auckland and Wellington, in the kiwi birdlife park in Queenstown, Orana Park or Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, at the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Encounter at Rotorua, and a handful of other places around New Zealand.
However, it is possible to see a kiwi in the wild, such as on a day tour from Auckland with us when we visit the Tawharanui open sanctuary. Here, we see a kiwi on approximately 70 per cent of our tours, where they scurry about in the undergrowth and occasionally even cross the path in front of us!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist