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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Struthioniformes (or Apterygiformes)
Family: Apterygidae
Gray, 1840[1]
Genus: Apteryx
Shaw, 1813[1]

Apteryx haastii
Great spotted kiwi
Apteryx owenii
Little spotted kiwi
Apteryx rowi
Okarito brown kiwi
Apteryx australis
Brown kiwi
Apteryx mantelli
North island brown kiwi


Apternyx [sic] Swainson 1837
Stictapteryx Iredale & Mathews 1926
Kiwi Verheyen 1960

Kiwi are flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae.

At around the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size.[2] There are five recognised species, all of which are endangered.

The kiwi is a national symbol of New Zealand.



There are five accepted species of kiwi (one of which has four sub-species), plus one to be formally described.

  • The largest species is the Great Spotted Kiwi or Roroa, Apteryx haastii, which stands about 45 cm (18 in) high and weighs about 3.3 kg (7.3 lb). (Males about 2.4 kg (5.3 lb)) It has grey-brown plumage with lighter bands. The female lays just one egg, which both parents then incubate. Population is estimated to be over 20,000, distributed through the more mountainous parts of northwest Nelson, the northern West Coast, and the Southern Alps.
  • The very small Little Spotted Kiwi, Apteryx owenii is unable to withstand predation by introduced pigs, stoats and cats, which have led to its extinction on the mainland. About 1350 remain on Kapiti Island and it has been introduced to other predator-free islands and appears to be becoming established with about 50 'Little Spots' on each island. A docile bird the size of a bantam, it stands 25 cm (9.8 in) high and the female weighs 1.3 kg (2.9 lb). She lays one egg which is incubated by the male.
The distribution of each species of kiwi
From left to right : Brown Kiwi (Apteryx australis), Little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii), and Great Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx haastii), Auckland War Memorial Museum
Little Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx owenii).
  • The Rowi, also known as the Okarito Brown Kiwi or Apteryx rowi, first identified as a new species in 1994,[3] is slightly smaller, with a greyish tinge to the plumage and sometimes white facial feathers. Females lay as many as three eggs in a season, each one in a different nest. Male and female both incubate. Distribution of these kiwi are limited to a small area on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, however studies of ancient DNA have revealed that in prehuman times it was far more widespread up the west coast of the South Island and was present in the lower half of the North Island where it was the only kiwi species detected.[4]
  • The Tokoeka, Apteryx australis, relatively common species of kiwi known from south and west parts of South Island that occurs at most elevations. It is approximately the size of the Great Spotted Kiwi and is similar in appearance to the Brown Kiwi but its plumage is lighter in colour. Ancient DNA studies have shown that in prehuman times the distribution of this species included the east coast of the South Island.[4] There are several subspecies of the Tokoeka recognised:
    • The Stewart Island Tokoeka, Apteryx australis lawryi, is a subspecies of Tokoeka from Stewart Island.
    • The Northern Fiordland Tokoeka ( Apteryx australis ?) and Southern Fiordland Tokoeka (Apteryx australis ?) live in the remote southwest part of South Island known as Fiordland. These sub-species of Tokoeka are relatively common and are nearly 40 cm (16 in) tall.
    • The Haast Tokoeka, Apteryx australis ?, is the rarest subspecies of kiwi with only about 300 individuals. It was identified as a distinct form in 1993. It only occurs in a restricted area in South Island's Haast Range at an altitude of 1,500 m (4,900 ft). This form is distinguished by a more strongly downcurved bill and more rufous plumage.
  • The North Island Brown Kiwi, Apteryx mantelli or Apteryx australis before 2000 (and still in some sources), is widespread in the northern two-thirds of the North Island and, with about 35,000 remaining, 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 North Island Brown has demonstrated a remarkable resilience: it adapts to a wide range of habitats, even non-native forests and some farmland. The plumage is streaky red-brown and spiky. The female usually lays two eggs, which are incubated by the male.

Analysis of mitochondrial DNA, ecology, behaviour, morphology, geographic distribution and parasites of the North Island Brown Kiwi has led scientists to propose that the Brown Kiwi is three distinct species. The North Island Brown Kiwi; the Okarito Brown Kiwi (Rowi), whose distribution is restricted to a single site on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand; and a third distinct population of the North Island Brown Kiwi, the Southern Tokoeka, distributed in the in lowland forest to the north of Franz Josef glacier in the South Island and on Stewart Island/Rakiura, with a small population near Haast being another possibly distinct species, the Haast Tokoeka.



It was long presumed that the kiwi's closest relatives were the other New Zealand ratites, the moa. However, recent DNA studies indicate that the Ostrich is more closely related to the moa and the kiwi's closest relatives are the Emu and the cassowaries. This theory suggests that the kiwi's ancestors arrived in New Zealand from elsewhere in Australasia well after the moa. According to British scientists, the kiwi may be an ancient import from Australia. Researchers at Oxford University have found DNA evidence connected to Australia's Emu and the Ostrich of Africa. Upon examining DNA from New Zealand's native moa, they believe that the kiwi is more closely related to its Australian cousins.[5]

Behaviour and ecology

North Island Brown Kiwi

Prior to the arrival of humans in the 13th century or earlier, New Zealand's only endemic mammals were three species of bat, and the ecological niches that in other parts of the world were filled by creatures as diverse as horses, wolves and mice were taken up by birds (and, to a lesser extent, reptiles).

Kiwi are shy and usually nocturnal. Their mostly nocturnal habits may be a result of habitat intrusion by predators, including humans. In areas of New Zealand where introduced predators have been removed, such as sanctuaries, kiwi are often seen in daylight. They prefer subtropical and temperate podocarp and beech forests, but they are being forced to adapt to different habitat, such as sub-alpine scrub, tussock grassland, and the mountains.[6] Kiwi have a highly developed sense of smell, unusual in a bird, and are the only birds with nostrils at the end of their long beak. Kiwi eat small invertebrates, seeds, grubs, and many varieties of worms. They also may eat fruit, small crayfish, eels and amphibians. Because their nostrils are located at the end of their long beaks, Kiwi can locate insects and worms underground without actually seeing or feeling them, due to their keen sense of smell.[6]

Relative size of the egg

Once bonded, a male and female kiwi tend to live their entire lives as a monogamous couple. During the mating season, June to March, the pair call to each other at night, and meet in the nesting burrow every three days. These relationships may last for up to 20 years.[7] They are unique among other birds in that they have a functioning pair of ovaries.[6] Kiwi eggs can weigh up to one quarter the weight of the female. Usually only one egg is laid per season. The kiwi lays the biggest egg in proportion to its size of any bird in the world [8], so even though the kiwi is about the size of a domestic chicken, it is able to lay eggs that are about six times the size of a chicken's egg[9][10] Eggs are smooth in texture, and are ivory or green-ish white.[11] The male incubates the egg, except for the Great spotted kiwi, A. haastii, where both parents are involved. The incubation period is 63–92 days.[6] Producing the huge egg places a lot of demands on the female. For the thirty days it takes to grow the fully developed egg the female must eat three times her normal amount of food. Two to three days before the egg is laid there is little space left inside the female for her stomach and she is forced to fast.[12]


Their adaptation to a terrestrial life is extensive: like all ratites they have no keel on the breastbone to anchor wing muscles, and barely any wings. The vestiges are so small that they are invisible under the kiwi's bristly, hair-like, two-branched feathers. While birds generally have hollow bones to minimise weight and make flight practicable, kiwi have marrow, in the style of mammals. With no constraints on weight from flight requirements, some Brown Kiwi females carry and lay a single 450 g (16 oz) egg. Like most other ratites, they have no preen gland. Their bill is long, pliable, and sensitive to the touch, and their eyes have a reduced pecten. Their feathers lack barbules, and aftershafts, and they have large vibrissae around the gape. They have 13 flight feathers, no tail, just a small pygostyle. Finally, their gizzard is weak and their caecum is long and narrow.[6]

Relationship with humans

Kiwi on 1898 New Zealand stamp.

Kiwi and Māori

Māori traditionally believe that kiwi are under the protection of Tane Mahuta, god of the forest. Kiwi feathers are particularly important to Māori, as they are used for kahu-kiwi – ceremonial cloaks[13]. Today, while kiwi feathers are still used, they are gathered from kiwi that die naturally or through road accidents or predation, and Māori no longer hunt kiwi, but consider themselves their guardians. [14]

Discovery and documentation

The first kiwi specimen to be studied by Europeans was a kiwi skin brought to George Shaw by Captain Andrew Barclay aboard the ship Providence, who was reported to have been given it by a sealer in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) around 1811. George Shaw gave the kiwi its scientific name and drew sketches of the way he imagined a live bird to look which appeared as plates 1057 and 1058 in volume 24 of The Naturalist's Miscellany[Full citation needed] in 1813.


The London Zoo was the first zoo to hold a kiwi, in 1851. The first captive breeding took place in 1945.[15] As of 2007 only 13 zoos outside Australia and New Zealand held kiwi.[16]


The widely recognised origin for the name Kiwi (kē'wē, pronounced [kiːwiː], "kee-wee"), is from the Māori language (1825–1835)[17] and as "of imitative origin" from the call.[18] However, there is another theory that the name stems from the fact that, with its long decurved bill and hairy brown body, it is similar to the Polynesian word kivi, used for the bristle-thighed curlew. So when the first settlers arrived, they simply reused this word for the new found bird [14]

The genus name Apteryx is Greek, meaning without wing: a-, without or not; pterux, wing.[19]

As a national symbol

The kiwi as a symbol first appeared in the late 19th century in New Zealand regimental badges. It was later featured in the badges of the South Canterbury Battalion in 1886 and the Hastings Rifle Volunteers in 1887. Soon after, kiwis appeared in many military badges, and in 1906 when Kiwi Shoe Polish was widely sold in the UK and the USA the symbol became more widely known.

During the First World War, the name "kiwi" for New Zealand soldiers came into general use, and a giant kiwi, (now known as the Bulford Kiwi), was carved on the chalk hill above Sling Camp in England. Use has now spread so that now all New Zealanders overseas and at home are commonly referred to as "kiwis".

The kiwi has since become the most well-known national symbol for New Zealand, and kiwis are prominent in the coat of arms, crests and badges of many New Zealand cities, clubs and organisations.[11][20]

The New Zealand dollar is often referred to as "the kiwi dollar"[21].

Program for saving endangered Kiwi

To protect the endangered Kiwi, a number of trusts and protection programme have been set up. These include:

See also


  1. ^ a b Brands, S. (2008)
  2. ^ San Diego Zoo
  3. ^ "Rowi: New Zealand native land birds". New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC). Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  4. ^ a b Shepherd, L.D. & Lambert, D.M. (2008)
  5. ^ News in Science
  6. ^ a b c d e Davies, S. J. J. F. (2003)
  7. ^ formerly
  8. ^ Auckland Zoo's Official Guide Book. In the section on wilderness New Zealand
  9. ^
  10. ^ San Diego Zoo, Kiwi
  11. ^ a b "The Kiwi Bird, New Zealand's Indigenous Flightless Bird". Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  12. ^ Piper, R. (2007)
  13. ^ "Kiwi and people: early history", Te Ara
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ "Captive management plan for kiwi". New Zealand Department of Conservation. June 2004. p. 10. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  16. ^ Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine Current Therapy, Murray E. Fowler, R. Eric Miller, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2007, p. 215.
  17. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary
  18. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
  19. ^ Gotch, A. F. (1995))
  20. ^ "The Kiwi, NZ Search". Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  21. ^ Kiwi dollar nears six year low against greenback. NZ Herald


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

KIWI, or Kiwi-Kiwi, the Maori name - first apparently introduced to zoological literature by Lesson in 1828 (Man. V. 27 a d'Ornithologie, ii. 210, or Voy. de la "Coquille," zoologie, p. 418), and now very generally adopted in English - of one of the most characteristic forms of New Zealand birds, the Apteryx of scientific writers. This remarkable bird was unknown till George Shaw described and figured it in 1813 (Nat. Miscellany, pls. 1057, 1058) from a specimen brought to him from the southern coast of that country by Captain Barcley of the ship "Providence." At Shaw's death, in the same year, it passed Kiwi.

into the possession of Lord Stanley, afterwards 13th earl of Derby, and president of the Zoological Society, and it is now with the rest of his collection in the Liverpool Museum. Considering the state of systematic ornithology at the time, Shaw's assignment of a position to this new and strange bird, of which he had but the skin, does him great credit, for he said it seemed "to approach more nearly to the Struthious and Gallinaceous tribes than to any other." And his credit is still greater when we find the venerable John Latham, who is said to have examined the specimen with Shaw, placing it some years later among the penguins (Gen. Hist. Birds, x. 394), being apparently led to that conclusion through its functionless wings and the backward situation of its legs. In this false allocation, James Francis Stephens also in 1826 acquiesced (Gen. Zoology, xiii. 70). Meanwhile in 1820 K. J. Temminck, who had never seen a specimen, had assorted it with the dodo in an order to which he applied the name of Inertes (Man. d'Ornithologie, i. cxiv.). In 1831 R. P. Lesson, who had previously (loc. cit.) made some blunders about it, placed it (Traite d'Ornithologie, p. 12), though only, as he says, "par analogie et a priori," in his first division of birds, "Oiseaux Anomaux," which is equivalent to what we now call Ratitae, making of it a separate family "Nullipennes." At that time no second example was known, and some doubt was felt,,especially on the Continent, as to the very existence of such a bird 1 - though Lesson had himself when in the Bay of Islands in April 1824 (Voy. "Coquille," ut supra) heard of it; and a few years later J. S. C. Dumont d'Urville had seen its skin, which the naturalists of his expedition procured, worn as a tippet by a Maori chief at Tolaga Bay (Houa-houa), 2 and in 1830 gave what proves to be on the whole very accurate information concerning it (Voy. "Astrolabe," ii. 107). To put all suspicion at rest, Lord Derby sent his unique specimen for exhibition at a meeting of the Zoological Society, on the 12th of February 1833 (Proc. Zool. Society, 18 33, p. 24), and a few months later (ton g. cit., p. 80) William Yarrell communicated to that body a complete description of it, which was afterwards published in full with an excellent portrait (Trans. Zool. Society, vol. i. p. 71, pl. 10). Herein the systematic place of the species, as akin to the 1 Cuvier in the second edition of his Regne Animal only referred to it in a footnote (i. 498).

2 Cruise in 1822 (Journ. Residence in New Zealand, p. 313) had spoken of an "emeu" found in that island, which must of course have been an Apteryx. Struthious birds, was placed beyond cavil, and the author called upon all interested in zoology to aid in further research as to this singular form. In consequence of this appeal a legless skin was within two years sent to the society (Proceedings, 1835, p. 61) obtained by W. Yate of Waimate, who said it was the second he had seen, and that he had kept the bird alive for nearly a fortnight, while in less than another couple of years additional information (op. cit., 18 37, p. 24) came from T. K. Short to the effect that he had seen two living, and that all Yarrell had said was substantially correct, except underrating its progressive powers. Not long afterwards Lord Derby received and in March 1838 transmitted to the same society the trunk and viscera of an Apteryx, which, being entrusted to Sir R. Owen, furnished that eminent anatomist, in conjunction with other specimens of the same kind received from Drs Lyon and George Bennett, with the materials of the masterly monograph laid before the society in instalments, and ultimately printed in its Transactions (ii. 257; iii. 277). From this time the whole structure of the kiwi has certainly been far better known than that of nearly any other bird, and by degrees other examples found their way to England, some of which were distributed to the various museums of the Continent and of America.' In 1847 much interest was excited by the reported discovery of another species of the genus (Proceedings, 1847, p. 51), and though the story was not confirmed, a second species was really soon after made known by John Gould (tom. cit., p. 93; Transactions, vol. iii. p. 379, pl. 57) under the name of Apteryx oweni - a just tribute to the great master who had so minutely explained the anatomy of the group. Three years later A. D. Bartlett drew attention to the manifest difference existing among certain examples, all of which had hitherto been regarded as specimens of A. australis, and the examination of a large series led him to conclude that under that name two distinct species were confounded. To the second of these, the third of the genus (according to his views), he gave the name of A. mantelli (Proceedings, 1850, p. 274), and it soon turned out that to this new form the majority of the specimens already obtained belonged. In 1851 the first kiwi known to have reached England alive was presented to the Zoological Society by Eyre, then lieutenant-governor of New Zealand. This was found to belong to the newly described A. mantelli, and some careful observations on its habits in captivity were published by John Wolley and another (Zoologist, pp. 3409, 3605). 4 Subsequently the society has received several other live examples of this form, besides one of the real A. australis (Proceedings, 1872, p. 861), some of A. oweni, and one of a supposed fourth species, A. haasti, characterized in 1871 by Potts (Ibis, 1872, p. 35; Trans. Zeal. Institute, iv. 204; v. 195).5 The kiwis form a group of the subclass Ratitae to which the rank of an order may fitly be assigned, as they differ in many important particulars from any of the other existing forms of Ratite birds. The most obvious feature the Apteryges afford is the presence of a back toe, while the extremely aborted condition of the wings, the position of the nostrils - almost at the tip of the maxilla - and the absence of an after-shaft in the feathers, are characters nearly as manifest, and others not less determinative, though more recondite, will be found on examination. The kiwis are peculiar to New Zealand, and it 3 In 1842, according to Broderip (Penny Cyclopaedia, xxiii. 146), two had been presented to the Zoological Society by the New Zealand Company, and two more obtained by Lord Derby, one of which he had given to Gould. In 1844 the British Museum possessed three, and the sale catalogue of the Rivoli Collection, which passed in 1846 to the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia, includes a single specimen - probably the first taken to America.

4 This bird in 1859 laid an egg, and afterwards continued to lay one or two more every year. In 1865 a male of the same species was introduced, but though a strong disposition to breed was shown on the part of both, and the eggs, after the custom of the Ratitae, were incubated by him, no progeny was hatched (Proceedings, 1868, P. 329).

5 A fine series of figures of all these supposed species is given by Rowley (Orn. Miscellany, vol. i. pls. 1-6). Some others, as A. maxima, A. mollis, and A. fusca have also been indicated, but proof of their validity has yet to be adduced.

is believed that A. mantelli is the representative in the North Island of the southern A. australis, both being of a dark reddishbrown, longitudinally striped with light yellowish-brown, while A. oweni, of a light greyish-brown transversely barred with black, is said to occur in both islands. About the size of a large domestic fowl, they are birds of nocturnal habit, sleeping, or at least inactive, by day, feeding mostly on earth-worms, but occasionally swallowing berries, though in captivity they will eat flesh suitably minced. Sir Walter Buller writes (B. of New Zealand, p. 362): "The kiwi is in some measure compensated for the absence of wings by its swiftness of foot. When running it makes wide strides and carries the body in an oblique position, with the neck stretched to its full extent and inclined forwards. In the twilight it moves about cautiously and as noiselessly as a rat, to which, indeed, at this time it bears some outward resemblance. In a quiescent posture, the body generally assumes a perfectly rotund appearance; and it sometimes, but only rarely, supports itself by resting the point of its bill on the ground. It often yawns when disturbed in the daytime, gaping its mandibles in a very grotesque manner. When provoked it erects the body, and, raising the foot to the breast, strikes downwards with considerable force and rapidity, thus using its sharp and powerful claws as weapons of defence.. .. While hunting for its food the bird makes a continual sniffing sound through the nostrils, which are placed at the extremity of the upper mandible. Whether it is guided as much by touch as by smell I cannot safely say; but it appears to me that both senses are used in the action. That the sense of touch is highly developed seems quite certain, because the bird, although it may not be audibly sniffing, will always first touch an object with the point of its bill, whether in the act of feeding or of surveying the ground; and when shut up in a cage or confined in a room it may be heard, all through the night, tapping softly at the walls.. .. It is interesting to watch the bird, in a state of freedom, foraging for worms, which constitute its principal food: it moves about with a slow action of the body; and the long, flexible bill is driven into the soft ground, generally home to the very root, and is either immediately withdrawn with a worm held at the extreme tip of the mandibles, or it is gently moved to and fro, by an action of the head and neck, the body of the bird being perfectly steady. It is amusing to observe the extreme care and deliberation with which the bird draws the worm from its hidingplace, coaxing it out as it were by degrees, instead of pulling roughly or breaking it. On getting the worm fairly out of the ground, it throws up its head with a jerk, and swallows it whole." The foregoing extract refers to A. mantelli, but there is little doubt of the remarks being equally applicable to A. australis, and probably also to A. oweni, though the different proportion of the bill in the last points to some diversity in the mode of feeding. (A. N.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also kiwi




Proper noun




  1. (informal) A New Zealander.


Kiwi (comparative more Kiwi, superlative most Kiwi)


more Kiwi

most Kiwi

  1. (informal) of or from New Zealand


  • Anagrams of iikw
  • wiki



Kiwi m. or f.

  1. (masculine) kiwi (bird)
  2. (feminine) kiwi (fruit)

Simple English

For the fruit, see kiwifruit.
File:Karuwai at August 2005 Health
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Struthioniformes
Family: Apterygidae
G.R. Gray, 1840
Genus: Apteryx
Shaw, 1813

The Kiwi is a bird from New Zealand. They are the genus Apteryx of the family Apterygidae. There are several species and sub-species of kiwi. The kiwi has become a symbol for New Zealand. People from New Zealand are nicknamed "Kiwis".


They have brown feathers, which almost look like fur, and a long beak. Kiwis cannot fly, and their wings have become so small that they cannot usually be seen. Kiwis cannot see very well, but they can hear very well.


Kiwis are nocturnal birds. They mostly eat invertebrates, like worms and insects. Kiwis keep a territory in which they live alone or with their mate. In their territory they build several small caves where they sleep, or lay their eggs. Kiwis are monogamous, the male and female stay together until one of them dies. The male and female live in the same territory and raise their children together. Female kiwis lay 1-3 eggs. The eggs are the largest compared to the size of the parent of any bird species. Kiwis become mature when they are 2 years old, and they can live to over 20 years old. One kiwi kept in a zoo even reached 35 years old.

Look up Apteryx in Wikispecies, a directory of species
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