Kiwi Birds

One of the world’s oddest bird species is the kiwi. This New Zealand bird species seems to break all the rules on what it means to be a bird:

  • It doesn’t fly,
  • Its feathers look like fur (the feathers form narrow, waterproof hairs),
  • It doesn’t have wings or a tail (its wings exist only as small, vestigial stubs hiding under its “fur”),
  • It has a good sense of smell (very unusual in birds).

This odd, chicken-sized, wingless bird hunts at night, by inserting its long, narrow beak into the forest floor’s soil. It sniffs out its favorite food, earthworms, with its sensitive nostrils. These nostrils are located at the tip of the beak (unlike all other birds, whose nostrils sit atop the beak’s base).

Another kiwi oddity is its enormous eggs. Each egg takes 4 weeks to develop in the female’s body; by the time she lays, it’s a full quarter of her body weight! The huge egg then needs 2-3 months of incubation before it hatches.

New Zealand’s 3 kiwi species are rare in the wild, and are getting rarer all the time. Their populations drop at 6% a year, due to land clearing and introduced predators (like dogs, cats and stoats). But humans are making a big effort to save them from extinction – many kiwis are being transferred from the New Zealand mainland to predator-free islands off the coast, where they are more likely to survive. One translocation, of a handful of Little Spotted Kiwis to Kapiti Island, resulted in a population of over a 1000 birds!