Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria
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The Special Kiwi Look
A nose at the end of the beak ! Most birds have
their nostrils at the top of the beak by the head. The kiwi is
the only bird with nostrils at the other end - this helps them
find their food by both smell and touch. They can bury their
bill completely into earth and still sniff out food. Special
valves in the bill stop the dirt going up the nose. Excellent
hearing ear openings are large and the kiwi can be seen
cocking its head to hear soft or distant noises.
Photo: Kiwi chick, Auckland Zoo
Whiskers at the top of the bill are useful in detecting
objects close at hand.
The Kiwi is named after the sound of its call.
One tough customer!
Kiwis are territorial and will fight to defend their
territories. It uses its bill to hold on its opponent and its
strong feet and claws to strike viciously. The feet and claws
are covered with hard scales. Kiwis are very agile and fast
moving. A bird's territory ((home area) might be as large as
60 rugby fields and it could cover that in one night.
Covering and Camouflage
Kiwis are covered soft downy feathers that are more like
an animalís fur than bird's feathers. They help keep the bird
warm while the outer feathers help to keep the bird dry. They
act like tiles on a roof by helping the rain to slide off the
The very large egg (up to a quarter of the hen's body weight)
takes about 70 - 80 days to hatch. Sometimes two eggs are laid
with about 22 days between each. The male incubates the eggs.
When the chick hatches, it lives off the remains of the
yolk sac for the fist few days. After this it is capable of
looking after itself in the bush but will not leave the nest
for some time.
Photo: Kiwi chick emerging
from egg, Auckland Zoo
Lives in damp dense native forests and shrubland. The
Kiwi is nocturnal and sleeps during the day in burrows
or hollow logs.
Kiwis are omnivorous - they eat insects, grubs, worms,
berries fruit. They find their food by smell not sight.
Four species of kiwi . Two of these species contain two
1. Brown Kiwi
a) North Island Brown Kiwi
- Spiky brown plumage streaked with black and dark brown
- Medium size found only in the upper two thirds of the
North Island, New Zealand
- Tough little birds to survive against humans and
- An estimated 35,000 birds remain.
b) Okarito Brown Kiwi Apteryx mantelli
Sometimes accompanied by white facial feathers.
Numbers around 140 birds.
- Only identified as a distinct sub-species in 1993.
- Found in lowland forest north of Franz Josef.
- Close relative to N.I.Brown but slightly more greyish
2. Little Spotted Apteryx owenii
- Mottled speckled brown plumage
- Smallest of the kiwis and the most endangered . Now
extinct on the mainland. A healthy group surviving on
predator-free Kapiti Is.
3. Great Spotted Apteryx haastii
- Similar to Little Spotted but with distinct chestnut
tinge on back.
- Largest of the kiwis Living in N.W. Nelson, the northern
West Coast and the Southern Alps between Arthurís Pass at
high altitude (New Zealand)
- Such an environment is more difficult for predators.
Estimated 10,000 pairs surviving.
a) Haast Tokoeka
- Identified as a distinct sub-species in 1993.
- Lives in the south-west of New Zealand.
- Some of these kiwis spend the whole year in sub-alpine
grasslands, even though most of area is snow-covered in
b) Southern Tokoeka Apteryx australis
- Squat and round and bigger than the NI.Brown they can
grow almost as big as the Great Spotted Kiwi.
- Southern Tokoeka live in Fiordland and on Stewart
Island which has fewer predators.
- There is estimated to be around 27,000 in the wild.
Preservation and Conservation:
According to IUCN criteria all six species of kiwi are
Okarito Brown and Haast Tokoeka are
Critically Endangered (because they are numbered at
less than 250 mature birds) and in decline. North Island Brown
and Great Spotted Kiwi are Endangered. Southern
Little Spotted Kiwi
are regarded as Vulnerable.
All species are facing rapid decline primarily due to
introduction of predators and destruction of forests and other
habitat. Of the six taxa only the Little Spotted Kiwi is
increasing following successful breeding in captivity and
transfer to predator free off shore island.
Further information: Web site:
More about ARAZPA
produced by the education group is a formulation
of principles, guidelines and minimum standards
for education for the many different sectors
involved in zoos, parks and aquaria.
Specialist Advisory Group
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