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Fascinating facts on New Zealand Kiwis and other flightless birds

Updated on December 26, 2015
Elsie Hagley profile image

Elsie is a kiwi living in New Zealand, enjoys sharing articles of her country. Land of the long white cloud. First country to see a new day.

Male kiwi on Maungatautari mountain


Kiwi Bird is Flightless and found only in New Zealand.

In the thick bush where I live in Okoki New Zealand, I'm very lucky to hear the kiwi calling out at dusk and have even heard them in the early morning.

The North Island Brown Kiwi is a species of kiwi that is widespread in the northern two-thirds of the North Island of New Zealand, with about 35,000 remaining, it is the most common kiwi.

Females stand about 40 cm (16 in) high and weigh about 2.8 kg (6.2 lb) the males about 2.2 kg (4.9 lb).

The plumage is streaky red-brown and spiky.

The kiwi, have 2-3 clutches a year with 2 eggs in each clutch.

The efforts of egg production for the female and incubation for the male cause kiwis to lose about a fifth of their body weight during each breeding attempt.

Chicks are fully feathered at hatching and leave the nest and can fend for themselves within 1 week.

94% of chicks die, before breeding in areas where mammalian pest control is not carried out, namely stoats, dogs, ferrets, and cats, are the number one threat to a kiwi.

Nationwide studies show that on average only 5 per cent of kiwi chicks survive to adulthood.

I get quite excited walking along the bush clad Urenui river, as I come across places where I see the kiwi's have been feeding, one of the signs are the ice cream cone holes, where they have been funneling their beaks for worms and insects.

Being a flightless bird, it skulks about at night, probing and scraping, for food on the leafy forest floor, is would be so nice to stumble across one during the day.

The Brown kiwi spends the day fast asleep, concealed in a spot among undergrowth or logs.

In the area where we live, there are some 100 or more wooden stoat boxes set to help eradicate the pests, but it has to be an on-going project, to protect the kiwi's, which is done well by the East Taranaki Environment Trust.

We also don't have cats or dogs, (as much as I would love a cat) so protecting the kiwis living in the area, if pig or goat shooters are around they should have their dogs trained to not touch kiwis, a requirement by DOC (Department of Conservation) before a license is granted.

Kiwis: Saving The World's Cutest Endangered Birds

Facts on kiwis

After the female kiwi lays her eggs, her mate incubates them for eleven weeks, about 80 days - the longest known incubation period of any bird.

Kiwi: The People's Art
Kiwi: The People's Art

The kiwi being a nocturnal and hidden in the forest it wasn't really understood, and even with these birds living in the bush around our property you only see places where they have been digging their beaks in search for food, they leave a ice cream cone shape in the ground were they have put the long beak to pull out a grub or worm, by reading this book you will find information which you may not have known. For instants how many species of kiwi are there?


Have you seen a live Kiwi (bird)?

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N.Z. Flightless Birds

Native New Zealand flightless birds that are not extinct include:

Kiwi (several species) Brown Kiwi,

Kakapo - flightless parrot



Penguins (several species)

Auckland island teal

New Zealand has more species of flightless birds than any other country.

One reason is that until the arrival of humans roughly a thousand years ago, there were no large land predators.

One of the reasons why the kiwi is only found in certain parts of New Zealand is destruction of forests, which sad to say is still happening, bringing in the farm aspects like dairying, which tells on flightless birds because they have nowhere to go for shelter from their predators, like rodents, cats dogs especially rats, which are found everywhere.

Kakapo Chicks Day Out - Arrowtown, New Zealand

The above Video is about three precious Kakapo Chicks, which were taken to Arrowtown NZ in May 2014 for a one-off public viewing, you can see by those smiling face how the public enjoyed it.

The Kakapo night parrot, also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot endemic to New Zealand.

It was once common all over New Zealand. It has wings, but its body is too heavy to allow it to fly, although it can glide for short distances.

Kakapo is the only species of flightless parrot in the world.

It has finely blotched yellow-green plumage, a distinct facial disc of sensory, vibrissa-like feathers, a large grey beak, short legs, large feet, and wings and a tail of relatively short length.

The beak of the Kakapo is adapted for grinding food finely.

For this reason, the Kakapo has a very small gizzard compared to other birds of their size.

It generally eats native plants, seeds, fruits, pollens and even the sapwood of trees.

A study in 1984 identified 25 plant species as Kakapo food.

It is particularly fond of the fruit of the rimu tree, and will feed on it exclusively during seasons when it is abundant.

The Kakapo is now an endangered species, it is critically endangered; as of June 2011, only 131 living individuals are known.

Having proved hard to breed in captivity, a large protected environment such as an island is its only chance for survival.

Has no male parental care, and is the only parrot to have a polygynous lek breeding system.

What is Lek-Breeding System?

A lek is an aggregation of males that gather to engage in competitive displays that may entice visiting females who are surveying prospective partners for copulation.

Takahe at Tawharanui

South Island Takahe, is a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand and belonging to the rail family.

In the first half of the 20 century, the Takahe was thought to be extinct.

In 1948, a few of these large, blue and green birds were found in a valley in Fiordland in the South Island of New Zealand.

The species is still present in the location where it was rediscovered in the Murchison Mountains.

Small numbers have also been successfully translocated to four predator-free offshore islands, Tiritiri Matangi, Kapiti, Maud and Mana, where they can be viewed by the public.

Additionally, captive Takahe can be viewed at Te Anau and Mt Bruce wildlife centres.

In June 2006, a pair of Takahe were relocated to the Maungatautari Restoration Project.

A related species, the North Island Takahe is extinct and only known from skeletal remains.

The Takahe cannot be bred successfully in captivity. In January 2011, a small number of Takahe were released in Zealandia, Wellington.

In total, there were 225 remaining birds.

I have read that the Takahe cannot be bred successfully in captivity, but not certain on this point it seems there has been some success.

Flightless bird in New Zealand - Weka

The Weka or woodhen is a flightless bird species of the rail family.

It is endemic to New Zealand, where four subspecies are recognized.

Weka usually lay eggs between August and January; both sexes help to incubate.

Wekas are predominantly rich brown mottled with black and grey; the brown shade varies from pale to dark depending on subspecies.

Weka occupy areas such as forests, sub-alpine grassland, sand dunes, rocky shores and modified semi-urban environments.

They are omnivorous, with a diet comprising 30% animal foods and 70% plant foods.

Animal foods include earthworms, larvae, beetles, weta, ants, grass grubs, slugs, snails, insect eggs, slaters, frogs, spiders, rats, mice, and small birds.

Plant foods include leaves, grass, berries and seeds.

Weka can raise up to four broods throughout the whole year.

On average, female Weka lay three creamy or pinkish eggs blotched with brown and mauve. Both sexes incubate.

The chicks hatch after a month, and are fed by both parents until fully grown between six and ten weeks

Weka are unable to withstand the current pressures faced in both the North Island and South Island.

Predation are ferrets, cats and dogs are a threat to adult Weka; stoats, ferrets are a threat to chicks; stoats and rats are a threat to eggs.

Auckland Island Teal


Interesting Fact about the Auckland Teal Duck

Most people think that ducks fly, but the Auckland Teal lost the power of flight because their wings are very small so flight is impossible.

The Auckland Teal or Auckland Islands Teal is a species of dabbling duck of the genus Anas that is endemic to Auckland Islands south of New Zealand.

In the above photo Auckland Teal in front, with Brown Teal behind.

The species was once found throughout the Auckland Islands but is now restricted to the islands that lack introduced predators; Adams Island, Enderby Island, Disappointment Island and a few smaller islands.

The Auckland Teal is smaller and raker than the Brown Teal of the main islands of New Zealand, a species with which it was once considered conspecific.

The plumage is all over brown with a hint of green on the neck and a conspicuous white eyering.

The female is slightly darker than the male.

The wings are very small and the species has, like the related Campbell Teal, lost the power of flight.

The Auckland Teal is mostly crepuscular to nocturnal, preferring to hide from predators (New Zealand Falcons and skuas) during the day.

The species inhabits a variety of habitats with the islands, including tussock fields, megaherb shrubland and coastal waters.

It is carnivorous for the most part, feeding on marine invertebrates, insects, amphipods and other small Invertebrates.

Auckland Teal are territorial and seldom form flocks.

What do you think about so many flightless birds in New Zealand.

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    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      @Sylvestermouse: What a nice comment, especially the bit about the Weka, what you saw by looking at his eyes, a mouse hunter, great. You made me smile, that was really cute and very touching.

      Thanks for visiting.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 2 years ago from United States

      They are all so fabulous and fascinating! It is pretty cool that you have written this article on flightless birds. I had no realized there were so many in one area. I just have to comment, I knew when I saw that eyes of the Weka in your photo that he was a mouse hunter!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @Donna Cook: Thanks for visiting and commenting. Yes it's quite amazing so many flightless birds as NZ doesn't have that much land and completely surrounded with the sea, but plenty of rodents to destroy them, especially the kiwis.

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      Donna Cook 3 years ago

      Terrific lens! I had no idea that there were so many different flightless birds in New Zealand or that you have penguins. Love the video. Wiggle!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      @dwelburn: Yes quite surprising for a small country with only 4 1/2 million people, there are certainly quite a few, which makes it hard to protect them against the rodents and wild cats.

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      dwelburn 3 years ago

      A beautiful and fascinating lens about flightless birds. I did not know there were so many in New Zealand.

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      Scott A McCray 4 years ago

      Thank you for a wonderful lens - the kiwi was the only one I was familiar with - now I've learned my "something new" for today!

    • Rosanna Grace profile image

      Rosanna Grace 4 years ago

      I didn't know there were so many! Thank you for sharing such an informative page with us. :)

    • kimberlyschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel, MLS 4 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      You have very cool birds in NZ!

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      hmommers 4 years ago

      How cute, the video of the penguins :-D

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      webscribbler 4 years ago

      I didn't realize New Zealand had so many flightless birds. And, they look so different from the native birds we have here in North Carolina (south-east United States).

      Enjoyed your lens. It was a bit like visiting a zoo.

    • Girlwiththorns profile image

      Girlwiththorns 4 years ago

      I live in New Zealand but have never seen a kiwi in the wild. They are so very shy!

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      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      The Kiwi is SO cute!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @TanoCalvenoa: Thanks for visiting and commenting, that's an interesting point about Moas and Adzebillls, 600 years is a long time, it's a shame that they were wiped out.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      This is a great lens! Too bad moas and adzebills have been extinct from the islands for 600 years. They were the biggest flightless birds there until humans wiped them out.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @MelanieKaren: Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      I am glad you shared with me the story of the extinct elephant bird egg, that was some find in the desert, must have been cooked after all those years.

      Yes sometimes we do things that we later regret, if only we could go back in time and relive what we do, would we do it again, on a second chance.

      Must be like the Moa's in New Zealand, sad, if only they could be recycled from years gone-by.

      But then again what would we do with them if those big birds were brought back into our lives.

    • MelanieKaren profile image

      Melanie Wilcox 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I really enjoyed this lens. I love the topic, and it's unique. I have a special fondness for large flightless birds. In fact I had an elephant bird egg once that I sold as part of my mineral and fossil business. It was from Madagascar, found in the desert. The Elephant Bird has been extinct for about 10,000 years due to over-killing for food. At any rate, it was a magnificent flightless bird standing over 10 feet tall! The eggs are larger than all dinosaur eggs! They are huge!! I really wish that was the one thing I held onto. -thought I'd share this with you and you can find pictures of the eggs and bird by googling of course.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      Beautiful birds and very interesting lens. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2013.

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      lionmom100 4 years ago

      Very interesting information on flightless birds of New Zealand. Your description of Kiwi feeding was interesting.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @hungry-deer: Thanks for visiting and commenting. Glad you liked the birds. Wouldn't it be sad if we didn't have bird life all around us. Enjoy. Have a nice day.

    • hungry-deer profile image

      hungry-deer 4 years ago

      Oh how cute is the baby bird kiwi! And Takahe, never seen one before. Thank you for sharing interesting information :)

    • RosaMorelli profile image

      RosaMorelli 4 years ago

      Wow, I love these, especially the Takahe - these are so much more fascinating than the birds I get in my little back garden in the UK! :)

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @Suunnyy: Thanks for the visit and comment. Bird pages are very rewarding, such beauty, isn't nature wonderful.

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      Suunnyy 4 years ago

      Brown Kiwi <3 :) I really enjoyed reading about these New Zealand birds, the only one I knew before is Kiwi. So I learned something new today. Great lens!

    • AdamzPg profile image

      AdamzPg 4 years ago

      Great lens Kiwinana! I seen my first ever Kiwi bird yesterday and they are quite unique.

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      niels010 4 years ago

      Squidlike your lens! Love to see this great pics from this beautiful birds :)

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @LilyBird: Thanks for visiting and commenting. Glad you like this page on NZ flightless birds.

      All the best for your future trip to New Zealand. You will love it.

    • LilyBird profile image

      LilyBird 4 years ago

      The Takahe is beautiful. I had heard of the other birds you profiled and now I have more info on them. Thanks for the introduction to the Takahe. I'm currently saving money to take a vacation to New Zealand and am now more excited to get there. Hope to see lots of birds there.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @PNWtravels: Thanks Vicki for your nice comment, yes I think New Zealand is a beautiful place too, but I should, shoulded I. Other people will feel the same about their homeland.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 4 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Flightless birds are so interesting - such a shame so many are endangered from introduced predators. I've always wanted to visit New Zealand both for birding and to see the beautiful landscapes I've seen in movies and photos.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @GardenerDon: Thanks for visiting and the nice comment. I appreciated it very much.

    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 4 years ago

      As on old Kiwi (now Canadian) any username with Kiwi in it, attracts me to usually some great stuff, such as this lens. Nicely done.

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      crstnblue 4 years ago

      Wonderful lens and very informative!


    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Have been to NZ a couple of times, and love the wildlife. Have only seen kiwis in sanctuaries though. Hopefully, some of these endangered species will recover. Blessed.

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      applejacking 4 years ago

      Kiwi. I've saw it before at summer camping. It's not too big but so funny. Too much bird in Aussie, small park around my house also full of birds and they're different because they can fly so high.

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      cmadden 4 years ago

      They're beautiful. I love the colors on the Takahe, and the Kakapo is adorable - such a shame so few remain.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Aw, I love all the birds here, they as such precious creatures.

      Blessed! :)

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @aesta1: Thanks for visiting my lens, New Zealand Flightless birds, squid liking commenting and blessing. You seem to be a much traveled lady. All the best for 2013.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is very interesting. I had been to New Zealand several times and have seen some but now you've given me the info.

    • Stephanie36 profile image

      Stephanie 4 years ago from Canada

      It makes sense since they evolved with no natural predadors on the ground...they never needed to fly!

    • loveanime22 profile image

      loveanime22 4 years ago

      great brown kiwi so cute

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @nifwlseirff: Welcome to Squidoo. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 4 years ago

      It's amazing that there are so many different flightless small birds - it shows that there are few natural predators! Beautiful photos and a great lens!

    • dragonlildragon profile image

      dragonlildragon 4 years ago

      awesome lens, i learned something here :-)

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 4 years ago

      Very informative lens. I love the look of the kiwis.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @tonybonura: Thanks for the nice comment. Hope you do get to visit New Zealand.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 4 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I think that it is just fine and dandy with me. I've always known New Zealand was a very unique place. Wish I could visit there. Oh, well maybe someday....


    • TaraWojt profile image

      Tara Wojtaszek 4 years ago

      Love kiwis and the takahe.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      @anonymous: Thanks for visiting, Squid liking, commenting, also the pin and Q+1. I appreciate it.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Love the Kiwi, squidliked, pinned and G+1

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I do love to read about birds and other animals so this lens was a delight to read. Angel Blessings!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 5 years ago from New Zealand

      @srsddn lm: Thanks for the visit and nice comment, please that you enjoyed it. Have a nice day.

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 5 years ago

      What a fantastic lens! Frankly speaking I did not know about some of these birds. Thanks for bringing these to my knowledge.

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Ahh they are so cute! I love the kiwi bird! They must have evolved to be flightless due to lack of predators. Wonderful lens!

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      They don't want to leave

    • stevebrown75 lm profile image

      stevebrown75 lm 5 years ago

      Again a Masterpiece..!! :)

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      The flightless birds of New Zealand are fascinating. I wonder if they have managed to survive in New Zealand because the people there were more considered of them than perhaps other areas of the world were?

    • Peta Panos profile image

      Peta Panos 5 years ago from Norway

      Fantastic lens! I for one learnt something new today

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Interesting and informative lens, I don't remember if I saw any kiwis when I lived in New Zealand, but I was very young.

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 5 years ago

      Fascinating learning about all the flightless birds in your country! Several I had heard about--the kiwi being among them, or course--but this was my introduction to several others like the Kakapo. Thanks for this interesting article!

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      zafeyry 5 years ago

      Kiwis are awkward little birds. Good article :)

    • Shorebirdie profile image

      Shorebirdie 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      I've heard about the kakapo. People are really trying to save them.

    • profile image

      GeniePark 5 years ago

      I thought that Kiwi is the only one os it's kind. I guess not.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      great article....thanks

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      I love kiwi birds - they look so cute!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      What an interesting article - the pictures were great. It really is too bad that so few babies survive to adulthood. I can see how it might be hard for them to survive with all those predators around and no way to get away from them. Thanks for telling us the story.

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      Lovely article on these Kiwi birdies :)

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Sad that conditions pose such a danger to them Love the way you brought this lens to life with so many beautiful pictures.