Put your fork down and back away from the kiwi.
I mean it!
As we’re travelled more and more, it’s come to our attention that the majority of the world doesn’t really know what a kiwi is.
This is a kiwi…
Whereas, this is a kiwifruit…
When we introduce ourselves as the ‘Exploring Kiwis’ we often get quizzical looks. You can almost see the cogs starting to turn…
Why would they name themselves after a piece of fruit? What next? The Adventuring Bananas?
With that in mind, it’s time we set the record straight for our international readers.
Kiwis aren’t food…
So, What is a Kiwi Really?
A kiwi is a small, flightless bird that is endemic to New Zealand. That means that not only is it native to the country, but it is not found anywhere else in the world.
They’re special little things.
Fun Fact: You might even have noticed that kiwifruit look surprisingly similar to our little kiwi birds. It’s no coincidence that the Chinese gooseberry flourished down in New Zealand and was appropriate renamed ‘kiwifruit’ due to its similar exterior.
Due to Aotearoa’s geographic isolation and lack of native mammals, kiwis lived for years without any major predators. Over time, they adapted to their environment – without any real threats, there was no need to fly, no need for good eyesight – and now, millions of years on, they remain genetically unchanged. Unfortunately, however, their environment has changed significantly due to human settlement and these quirky characters have long been classified as endangered.
An average of 27 kiwi are killed by predators EVERY WEEK. That’s a population decline of around 1,400 kiwi every year (or 2%). At this rate, kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime. Just one hundred years ago, kiwi numbered in the millions.
A single roaming dog can wipe out an entire kiwi population in a matter of days
Approximately 20% of the kiwi population is under management.
In areas under where predators are controlled, 50-60% of chicks survive. When areas are not under management 95% of kiwi die before reaching breeding age.
Only 20% survival rate of kiwi chicks is needed for the population to increase.
Fortunately though, things are improving for some kiwi populations. On the Coromandel, where kiwis live in a controlled area, free of predators, their numbers are doubling every decade.
… But can I call you a Kiwi?
As our national bird, icons don’t get much more Kiwi than the kiwi.
When you visit our neighbours across the ditch in Australia, you’ll call them Ozzies. When you refer to a New Zealander, you’re welcome to call us Kiwis – a name that has become so entrenched in our culture, it’s hard to imagine being called anything else.
To help you get to know these interesting little creatures a bit better, here are some kiwi facts to help you on your way…
- They’re known as honorary mammals due to some of their habits and physical traits. They have nostrils at the end of their long beaks, have feathers that resemble hair and lay massive eggs – proportionally they have some of the biggest eggs around, with babies being 20% of the mothers size (humans by comparison are only 5%).
- Kiwis are nocturnal birds, spending the day sleeping whilst hunting at night.
- Though you’re incredibly unlikely to find a Kiwi in the wild yourself, you never know. Moonless nights are your best opportunity – a couple of hours after the sun sets or just as it’s about to rise. Don’t let us get your hopes up though; neither Nathan or I have ever managed to spot one in the wild.
- Part of the ratites group, these ancient animals can’t fly. You may be familiar with some of their larger cousins though – the ostritch, emu and another New Zealand giant, the extinct moa.
So, now you know. We’re not named after a fruit at all, but a gutsy little flightless bird and a pretty cute one at that.
Though we can’t answer the age-old question of which came first – the chicken or the egg – we can say with absolute certainty that the kiwi came before the fruit!
Figure it’s time others know what a kiwi really is? Pin this post to help them out…