There are five species of kiwi. The Brown Kiwi can be found on the North Island, while the Tokoeka lives in the southwest of the South Island and the Rowi inhabits the West Coast of the South Island.
The kiwi is endemic to New Zealand and easily recognisable by its long beak with nostrils at the tip, tiny wings and shaggy brown feathers. Kiwis are flightless birds and they spend their days sleeping in underground burrows. At night they sniff out worms, spiders and other insects in the undergrowth and they also eat New Zealand fruits and plants. Kiwis lay giant eggs and the parents take it in turns to sit on the egg for 70 days until the kiwi chick hatches.
Before humans arrived in New Zealand the country was a predator-free paradise and so many flightless birds evolved. When humans introduced predators, however, the kiwi population shrunk drastically and today they are a threatened species with only about 70,000 birds remaining. New Zealand conservation workers are doing their best to protect New Zealand’s national bird with wildlife sanctuaries and breeding programmes.
Thanks to conservation efforts there are plenty of options for seeing kiwi forage in nocturnal houses. Some of the best places include: Whangarei Museum, Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park, National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, Wellington and Auckland Zoos, ZEALANDIA in Wellington, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch, Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown and Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park and Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua. And if you’re lucky you might just see a kiwi in the wild on Stewart Island!
As with many things in New Zealand, there is a Maori legend about how the kiwi lost its wings. According to Maori myth, Tane-mahuta, god of the forest, was worried about his children, the trees, as bugs and birds were eating away at them. He consulted his brother Tane-hokahoka, god of the birds, who asked his children to come down from the forest roof and live on the floor. But the Tui was scared of the darkness on the forest floor, the Pukeko didn’t like its dampness, and every bird had another excuse. Only the Kiwi agreed to sacrifice his beautiful wings and feathers to live on the forest floor. And as a reward, Tane-hokahoka made him the most well-known and best-loved bird of all.
There are five species of kiwi. The Brown Kiwi can be found on the North Island, while the Tokoeka lives in the southwest of the South Island and the Rowi inhabits the West Coast of the South Island. The Great Spotted Kiwi is found only in the northwest of the South Island, while the rare Little Spotted Kiwi exists only on offshore islands and in predator-free sanctuaries.