Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs in New Zealand

New Zealanders are often referred to as Kiwis due to their national bird being the elusive kiwi bird. To preserve and assist in the rehabilitation of the wild kiwi numbers in the country, the Kiwi Encounter facility was opened at Rainbow Springs, Rotorua. The facility not only studies and oversees breeding projects but also educates the public on this iconic bird. It is also a tourist attraction, allowing overseas visitors into the world of this wonderful bird, where they can learn more about the fight to protect this bird from extinction.

The kiwi is probably one of the most fascinating birds on the planet and scientists have been studying this intriguing bird for years due to its unusual features and habits. Firstly, the kiwi is a nocturnal bird, sleeping in a burrow for most of the day, while foraging in the evenings. It is black in color and has very tiny wings, making it unable to fly. Its plumage resembles fur and it has an impeccable sense of smell, with its nostrils being located at the end of its beak. It is also the only bird in the world where the female has two ovaries, and instead of boasting tail feathers, it has whiskers. Not only is their sense of smell flawless, but their hearing is also extremely sensitive, making up for the fact that their eyesight is not as good as other nocturnal creatures. The kiwi’s dark coloring allows it to camouflage itself perfectly at night, and it will stand dead still, while blending into its environment, if a predator is in the vicinity. They feed mainly on insects and worms, and are very territorial.

When in the wild, campers and hikers will often hear the sniffing of a kiwi bird as it searches for food without seeing it. At Kiwi Encounters a nocturnal area has been created to resemble the birds’ natural habitat as closely as possible, including high tech lighting, creating an artificial moonlit evening, and allowing visitors to see them forage for food and go about their evening routines. There are also outdoor enclosures to investigate, some of which feature predators. The Kiwi Culture Exhibit provides the public with essential information in regard to the birds’ characteristics, origins and predators, which could include domesticated animals. It also features how New Zealanders were given the nickname of Kiwis and where products such as kiwi fruit and kiwi nuggets got their names.

The nursery and hatchery is where the captive breeding program is controlled and run. Their dietary needs are seen to through breeding facilities for worms and all the other creatures that kiwis prefer eating. Kiwi Encounter is an attraction for the entire family to enjoy, as it has specialized exhibits and interactive programs for children. Visiting the Kiwi Encounter centre is not only educational and exciting, but with each visitor passing through its doors, funds are being raised to continue the invaluable work of conservationists and scientists to save the kiwi bird.