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Shy, Nocturnal, Endangered: All About the Kiwi Bird

Updated on January 19, 2015

The New Zealand Exclusive, the Kiwi!

It's more than the symbol of New Zealand, it's the smallest ratite known! What's a ratite? It's a group of flightless birds that are for the most part extinct. The five species of kiwis known are Great Spotted Kiwi (or Roroa), Little Spotted Kiwi, Okarito Brown Kiwi (or Rowi), Tokoeka, North Island Brown Kiwi.

Picture courtesy of National Geographic.

What are Kiwis Like?

Mating habits, diet and appearance of the kiwi

These shy, nocturnal and often secretive forest creatures range from 9-17 inches in height, depending upon the variety. Kiwis do not rely on their eyesight as much as they do their highly developed sense of smell, which makes them very alert. This helps them search out food in the form of insects, grubs, and worms with their long bill, which is equipped with nostrils (a unique feature in birds). They also don't have to see their prey to catch it.

Kiwis Mate for Life

Above: Great Spotted Kiwi, South Island, NZ Photographic Print

They usually remain monogamous and pick a pair to mate with their entire 20-year or so life. Kiwis mate in the winter months of June through March (remember, winter down under is opposite of the Northern Hemisphere!). Burrowing in tree trunks and secluded forest areas, kiwis will nest for their average of one egg per season. Kiwi eggs typically are around 25% of the weight of the larger female. After an eleven week incubation period, during which the male incubates, the small kiwi chick is born. After surviving off the yolk for a number of days, the kiwi will venture out of the nest along with the father to search out food for the first time. The kiwi's long, sharp, 3-toed feet allow it protection against predators.

Where are their wings?

Kiwis don't look like they have wings, but they do. For this reason, the wing has receded under the bristly feathers that resemble hair. They are closed related to the emu, another flightless New Zealand bird. They also belong to the same family of birds in which you'll find ostriches, casowaries, and rheas.

They're a bit elusive...

Kiwis can be a difficult animal to photograph. They're shy and like their privacy, so photographs aren't all that abundant of this animal. They're declining population makes it even more difficult!

If you're not from New Zealand... may not know that New Zealand residents often refer to themselves as "kiwis."

Kiwi Links

Kiwi YouTube Videos

Are they Endangered?

Yes, all kiwis are endangered and in decline. The Okarito Brown Kiwi is critically endangered with an estimated 250 birds left, while the North Island Brown Kiwi's conservation status is endangered. All other kiwis are in the "threatened" status of endangered, largely in part to introduced predators to the New Zealand area such as dogs, and of course, humans, through loss of habitat and automobiles. How can you help? Visit the Save the Kiwi website to make a donation to help these rare birds!

A Kiwi Poll... - Take our poll on this endangered New Zealand bird!

Have something to say about Kiwis or just want to say hello?

© 2008 Kiwisoutback

Kiwi Feedback

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    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @anonymous: Hi Amelia! I don't think anyone does eat kiwis in New Zealand. I couldn't find any evidence of this online. Most of their deaths occur from automobiles and large predators like dogs.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 4 years ago from United States

      Wishing you a year of many new blessings starting with this one! Happy New Year!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I really love kiwis, too. I'm 8. I really don't get why the people of New Zealand eat them. Don't they have chickens there? Can't some be shipped from America to there?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I really love kiwis!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: same here got a B+

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love kiwis and i really love that u have got facts about them

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I'd heard about them, but didn't know much. They're interesting birds. Thank you

    • profile image

      KeepsakeIdeas 5 years ago

      The kiwi looks so cute, I hope this unique bird can be protected and brought off the endangered list.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Excellent facts about Kiwis!

    • SaintFrantic profile image

      SaintFrantic 6 years ago

      I thought that they are extinct.Anyway we need to protect them before they really do.Thanks

    • ellagis profile image

      ellagis 6 years ago

      Nice lens! Kiwis need all the need they can have to survive :)

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      great lens. Angel blessed and featured on my Wild Bird Lenses lens

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 6 years ago

      Great story on this wonderful animal/bird. *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Angel blessings for Dogs on Squidoo.- other animals

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      Adding a kiss for luck on this St. Patrick's Day!

    • dustytoes profile image

      dustytoes 6 years ago

      Well now I understand your name and look a lot better! What a sweet little bird it is. I really hope it comes back. Blessed!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I honestly think that the kiwi birds should be saved. They are so sweet and inocent, they didnt do anything to the predators! I here that once, they had a shoe polishing company that used kiwi birds! thats horrible! I hope that we can save them in time. they could be extinct within 15-20 years if we dont do anything!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      Oh, they are so adorable! I don't believe I have ever seen a real, live Kiwi bird.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Your intro picture is just as cute as can be! I sure just learned a lot from you! Did you know that Kiwis are endangered, are hard to photograph, are nocturnal, hunt with their noses and actually have nostrils....and don't even have to see their prey of grubs, insects and worms to catch it? Now we both know, excellent!! I never had so much fun learning! It must be that you started with cute!

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      I knew so little about the kiwi before. Thanks for the information... and SquidAngel blessings on this.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago


      Australia and New Zealand are very different places! It is not reccommended to get them mixed up when an aussie(australian) or a kiwi(newzealander) are present :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago


      this is a wonderful lens.!!!



    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      this helped with my project

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi, i was doing a school project that was very urgent and this helped me finish it. Thanksfor the info.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi, this is a 9 year old speaking!

      I'm speaking because this is great information for my school project.

      It is really hard and I'm pretty sure now that I will get a good mark!

      It's happening on the 29th of April!

      Gee, I better get a move on!! :-)

      Love Ella Leaney

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Great lens. Very interesting.

    • Tobbie LM profile image

      Tobbie LM 8 years ago

      I had no idea what a Kiwi was. I learned something new today. 5*

    • profile image

      jessicahoward 8 years ago

      wow this is really great information about kivi...the pictures are excellent..great job done.keep it up.i think kivi is the national bird of new zealand.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      great and informative site. know more now about the little birds. Keep up the good work!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 9 years ago from Covington, LA

      Australian wildlife has always interested me. Another place I'd love to visit. Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens link to the appropriate plexo and vote for it.

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 9 years ago from Idaho

      And I thought kiwi was a fruit! Thanks for educating me to the plight of this endangered species! 5* Linda

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 9 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      This is a wonderful lens. It saddens me to think of all these endangered creaturs. I've given you a lensroll on my Penguin lens.

    • Classic LM profile image

      Classic LM 9 years ago

      Hello, yet another great lens! Thanks for submitting this to my group Nature and Environment! Classic