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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Extraordinary Facts About The Kiwi For Kids

Kiwi facts will get you interested in this amazing small bird.

The kiwi, belonging to the genus Apteryx, is any of the five species of flightless birds native to New Zealand. In Latin, the term 'Apteryx' means 'wingless,' and hence the name. In the Māori language, kiwi refers to the shrill call of the male kiwi birds.

Kiwis are grayish or brownish in color and are one of the smallest extant ratites (large, flightless, long-legged birds), the others of the group being emus, ostriches, cassowaries, and rheas). However, the kiwi is an exception since it is comparatively smaller and is short-legged.

These endemic birds of New Zealand currently have five known species as well as several subspecies. The five species are Apteryx haastii (great spotted kiwi), Apteryx owenii (little spotted kiwi), Apteryx rowi (Okarito brown kiwi), Apteryx australis (southern brown kiwi), and Apteryx mantelli (North Island brown kiwi). The southern brown kiwi is one of the most common species of the flightless bird.

With habitats spread across New Zealand's islands, these nocturnal birds have become the national symbol of New Zealand.

Read on for more interesting kiwi bird facts!

If you like reading New Zealand's kiwi facts, animal facts on emus and ostriches will also interest you.

Kiwi Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a kiwi?

The kiwi is a flightless bird.

What class of animal does a kiwi belong to?

Kiwis belong to the class of birds  (Aves) and are the smallest known, short-legged, and nocturnal ratites (flightless birds).

How many kiwis are there in the world?

As of 2019, there were around 68,000 kiwis left in the world with populations steadily declining. With a population that was once around 12 million, various threats are causing the unmanaged kiwi populations to fall by 2% every year.

Where does a kiwi live?

Kiwis are strictly terrestrial animals that live in subtropical and temperate forest areas,  scrublands, grasslands, and savannahs. They can be found in beach forests, hardwood forests, and broadleaf, evergreen forests that are dark enough to camouflage the birds during the day when they sleep.

What is a kiwi's habitat?

Depending on the species, the population of New Zealand's native birds is spread across different forested areas of New Zealand.

The great spotted kiwi (Apteryx haastii) are found in three main regions of New Zealand - Paparoa Range, northwest Nelson, and the Arthur’s Pass-Hurunui district of the Southern Alps. While the largest population of kiwis is found in northwest Nelson, the smallest population is in the Hurunui district. They usually make nests in areas with an overhead cover such as underneath rocks or in tree crevices. The southern brown kiwi (Apteryx australis) fall under the Australian biogeographic region but are indigenous to New Zealand, residing on the North Island, South Island, and Stewart Island. In an undisturbed habitat, the kiwis burrow in banks of streams, under stones, or on soft and flat ground. In human presence, the kiwis usually burrow in rough farmlands under shrubs and logs. The little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii) are found in the remote forests of South Island and on the Kapiti Island. The North Island brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) is found throughout the North Island of New Zealand and has adapted to live on pine plantations and scrub-like farmlands. The Okarito kiwi (Apteryx rowi) are found in the Okarito forest on the west coast of South Island in New Zealand.

Who do kiwis live with?

A kiwi habitat can be hardly found where they live in a gathering. However, small and clustered groups of kiwis can be found on Stewart Island. Kiwis are extremely territorial and their territories can span over areas of up to 100 acres (40 ha). They are known to engage in intense duels and can even kill each other over territories. The fights are pretty rough, involving jumps, kicks, and tears using the powerful legs of the adult birds.

How long does a kiwi live?

Depending on the species, a kiwi in the wild can have a lifespan ranging between 25 and 50 years.

How do they reproduce?

The female kiwi is larger than the male and calls the shots during breeding. The breeding season extends from June to March, during which, the mating pair call to each other at night and meet in the nest every three days. With no special physical adaptation to attract the female, the male simply follows around the female. If the female is uninterested, she will either run away or kick the male away, and if she is interested, breeding takes place several times during the night. The females usually lay one kiwi egg per season after an incubation period of around 75 to 85 days. Kiwi chicks hatch fully feathered. Additionally, kiwi chicks are independent and are not helped by their parents to forage for food in the wild.

What is their conservation status?

Even though many kiwi populations are fast declining, they are not extinct. The five species of this small bird have been accorded different conservation statuses in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The North Island brown kiwi is 'Vulnerable' with a stable population, the Okarito kiwi is 'Vulnerable' with increasing populations, the little spotted kiwi is 'Near Threatened' with increasing global population, the great spotted kiwi is 'Vulnerable' with a declining population, and the southern brown kiwi is also 'Vulnerable' with populations decreasing.

Kiwi Fun Facts

What do kiwis look like?

Kiwi is the unofficial national symbol of New Zealand.

The bird is typically small and differs from other birds in many respects. They are mostly brownish gray in color with long and soft feathers on the body. They have a long and flexible bill (beak) at the tip of which are nostrils and at the base of the bill are located whiskers like cats, unique features not normally seen in any other bird. Further, the vestigial (not functional) wings are concealed within the plumage and the feathers are without aftershafts. The non-functional wings have a claw-like that of cats on the end.

A kiwi has muscular and stout legs which make up for most of the body weight of an adult bird and are extremely useful for fighting and running. Further, an adult kiwi has four toes on each thick foot that allows the bird to move silently through the forest while foraging for food. The kiwi has very small eyes, large ear openings, no tail, and it obviously cannot fly! A spotted kiwi appears spotted due to the uniquely arranged brown, gray, and off-white feathers. The kiwi chicks are born with shaggy feathers but look like miniature versions of their parents.

How cute are they?

Owing to the small kiwi size, they are quite cute, often seeming like a fur-covered fuzzy pear.

How do they communicate?

Even though the kiwi can live for up to 50 years, it has quite poor eyesight. But the lack of proper vision is compensated for by a keen sense of smell. The long hairs at the base of the beak of the kiwi are used for sensing food. The tip of the beak also has sensitive nerve endings to detect changes in pressure and vibration to detect prey. The kiwi is quite vocal and makes the characteristic 'kee-wee-wee' cry which sounds more like an extended whistle. A kiwi chick usually makes a clicking sound. The cry of the kiwi indicates their presence at night and also assists in finding mating partners.

How big is a kiwi?

The average kiwi is almost the size of a domestic chicken but sizes vary depending on the species. The largest is the great spotted kiwi with an average height ranging between 17.32 in - 21.65 in (44 cm - 55 cm). The smallest kiwi species are the little spotted kiwi with an average height ranging between 14 in - 18 in (35 cm - 45 cm). Females are usually larger than males.

How fast can a kiwi run?

A wild kiwi is quick-moving and agile and can run quite fast with its powerful legs.

How much does a kiwi weigh?

Here again, bodyweight varies with the kiwi species. The great spotted kiwi has a bodyweight ranging between 5.29 lb to 7.27 lb (2.4 kg to 3.3 kg) and the little spotted kiwi has a bodyweight averaging between 1.9 lb to 4.3 lb (0.86 kg to 1.95 kg). A female kiwi weighs more than a male kiwi. When the young kiwi chicks hatch, they weigh around 9 oz (255 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

A male and a female kiwi do not have any distinct names.

What would you call a baby kiwi?

A young kiwi goes by the general name of 'chick.'

What do they eat?

The kiwi diet consists of berries, seeds, worms, bugs, grubs, and other small invertebrates and insects. The nostrils on the tip of the beak of the kiwi animal give them a sharp sense of smell, helping them probe underground for food.

Are they dangerous?

A kiwi can be pretty aggressive and dangerous when provoked and are known to kill each other in fights over territories.

Would they make a good pet?

Contrary to good, a kiwi can be quite a dangerous pet owing to its sharp claws and tendency to be aggressive upon sensing danger.

Did you know...

If a kiwi sniffs dirt into its nostrils, it simply sneezes it out!

Unlike other birds, a female kiwi is unique in having a functional pair of ovaries.

Kiwi pairs form monogamous couples (one partner throughout a lifetime).

Kiwi chicks suffer from a 95% mortality rate.

Kiwi chicks are vulnerable to predators like domestic dogs and cats, stoats, ferrets, weasels, and rats.

Kiwi pairs use soft snuffles and grunts with each other and with their chicks.

Can kiwis fly?

No, they are flightless birds. Their breastbones do not have the keel, a structure to which the flight muscles are attached.

Can kiwis swim?

Yes, they are good swimmers due to their powerful legs.

The kiwi is the national bird of which country?

The kiwi is a national icon of New Zealand. The indigenous Māori people of New Zealand consider the kiwi to be a treasure and have strong cultural and spiritual associations with it.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including geese and Cooper's hawks.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our kiwi bird coloring pages.

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