Kiwi experts are keen to dispel myths surrounding the kiwi – and there are quite a few!
Kiwi use their beaks to find food, not to fight
The kiwi’s beak is a finely tuned appendage, capable of detecting a few parts per million of scent. To use its beak to fight would be like you head-butting someone with your nose!
The kiwi’s main weapons are its powerful legs and sharp claws. Territorial fights are a jump and slash affair, and can inflict fatal injuries.
Kiwi are feisty & aggressive, not timid
Some people think kiwi are timid and shy. In fact, they are super strong, territorial and can be extremely bad tempered.
Adult birds use their razor-sharp claws as weapons, and a couple of slashes can draw blood. In fact, conservation workers often bear the scars from putting their hand down a kiwi burrow to check for eggs or chicks.
Kiwi researcher Dr John McLennan says when he imitates a kiwi’s call, a bird may charge the intruder. “They sound like a deer charging, almost exploding, through the dark. Standing there it’s quite intimidating, even for us.”
One great spotted kiwi in North Westland called Pete, is legendary. “We’ve just got to walk into his territory and he comes catapulting in for a hit-and-run. He belts you in the leg and then runs off into the undergrowth.”
Kiwi are very smart, not bird-brained
Kiwi are capable of learning very quickly. Once a bird has been tricked into capture with tapes of kiwi calls or whistles, it is hard to fool it a second time. Kiwi researcher Dr Hugh Robertson says a kiwi remembers its bad experience for at least five years. Birds approach the tape recorder and call to challenge it, then circle the machine at a distance as if they are trying to get down wind to check if the intruder is a real kiwi.
Kiwi are very fast, not snail-paced
In the wild, kiwi are big travellers, superbly adapted to their natural habitat, agile, and quick-moving. A bird can cover his or her territory – possibly the size of 60 football fields – in a single night (but unlike a football field, the ground isn’t always flat). If alarmed, kiwi can run as fast as a person.
There’s a bigger egg from a smaller bird
Although the female kiwi has to cope with an enormous egg that equals about 20% of her body mass, she is not the most heavily burdened female in the bird world. Small seabirds such as storm petrels have proportionately bigger eggs – up to 30% of their weight – and unlike the kiwi, they have to fly with it on board.
The great kiwi hoax
In 1813, when the first kiwi skin was displayed in England, people thought it was a hoax: a crazy stitched-together skin from a number of different creatures!
Learn more about kiwi
How you can help
Many hands make light work. Keen to join the mission to save the kiwi? Here are some ways you can help.