What’s so unusual?
Kiwi are flightless – their Latin species name is Apteryx, which means wingless. They belong to an ancient group of birds that can’t fly – the ratites. Because they can’t fly, how they arrived in New Zealand is not completely clear.
Kiwi habits and physical characteristics are so like a mammal the bird is sometimes referred to as an honorary mammal. It has feathers like hair, nostrils at the end of its beak and an enormous egg.
Most kiwi are nocturnal birds, like many of New Zealand’s native animals. Their calls pierce the forest air at dusk and dawn.
Kiwi are omnivores. Discover what foods they find with their unusual beak.
Even though kiwi are unusual enough, tall stories abound about the bird.
Find out more about kiwi
Kiwi are part of a group of largely flightless birds known as ratites. Ostriches, emu and the extinct moa are also part of this group.
The kiwi is sometimes referred to as an honorary mammal because of it's unbird-like habits and physical characteristics
The kiwi is one of New Zealand's many flightless birds. This is because of the lack of land mammal predators before man arrived in New Zealand 1000 years ago
Because kiwi do not fly, their feathers have evolved a unique texture to suit a ground-based lifestyle
The kiwi has an extremely unusual beak. Not only does it provide a keen sense of smell, it also has sensory pits at the tip which allow the kiwi to sense prey moving underground.
In proportion to its body size, the female kiwi lays a bigger egg than almost any other bird. While a full term human baby is 5% of its mother's body weight, the kiwi egg takes up 20% of the mother's body
Kiwi make their home in many different environments and have been described as 'breeding machines'. With the eradication of predators, the kiwi could be successful once again
Kiwis are most active in the dark. The night brings many of the underground invertebrates they like to eat closer to the soil's surface, as well as offering protection from daylight predators
The best time to hear a kiwi is on a moonless night, either two hours after dark, or just before dawn. This is when kiwis will most likely stir from their burrows and call to mark its territory and establish contact with its mate
Because kiwi live in diverse habitats, it is difficult to define a typical kiwi diet. Most of their food is invertebrates and a favourite is native worms, which can grow to more than 0.5 metres
Exactly how the kiwi came to New Zealand is still a mystery, but there are a few possible explanations for how kiwi got here
While it is difficult to be certain about the kiwi's evolutionary history, New Zealand’s changing landscape and land formation is thought to have influenced the way kiwi evolved.
A number of myths surround the kiwi, and experts are keen to set the record straight