The New Zealand Kiwi
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The New Zealand Kiwi

The kiwi is a native bird of New Zealand. It also refers to a New Zealand person and a kiwifruit.

While many people are aware of the word kiwi (pronounced kee-wee) and vaguely acknowledge that this term comes from New Zealand, there is a lot of confusion about the actual meaning of the word. This is because kiwi can mean three different things. However, there is only one true kiwi.

The Original Kiwi Bird

The real kiwi is an endangered flightless, nocturnal bird, native to New Zealand. It is recognized as the national symbol for New Zealand, as well as being the symbol by which many locally produced things are known. The bird’s natural habitat is the diminishing native bush and forests. Those New Zealanders who have seen a kiwi have usually experienced the bird in wildlife and bird sanctuaries, in darkened enclosures providing an artificial night.

There are three species of kiwi, the most common one being the Brown Kiwi, and there are three sub-species of Brown Kiwi. There are approximately 35,000 Brown Kiwi remaining in the wild in the North Island. It is about the size of domestic chicken, females being approximately 40cm high. The female lays two eggs a year in a burrow and these are incubated by the male. The size of the kiwi egg is incredible, easily filling an outstretched hand.

Predators, both human and animal, are responsible for the decline in kiwi numbers. Being flightless, the bird is vulnerable. Man sets traps for forest pests such as possums and takes dogs hunting in the forest. Other predators are stoats, wild pigs and wild cats. Because it is classified as endangered, kiwis are protected birds. At least two predator free islands now provide sanctuary for the birds, Kapiti Island off the North Island's west coast and Motuara Island in Queen Charlotte Sound.

The Human Kiwi

New Zealanders travelling overseas and people living in New Zealand are often referred to as Kiwis. This term originated in World War One. New Zealand soldiers stationed at Sling Camp in England carved a huge kiwi in the nearby chalk hills. The name Kiwi followed the soldiers onto the battlefields of France and has continued being used now for all New Zealanders. Unlike the bird, human kiwis are no longer flightless and probably because of their distance from the rest of the world, are keen travellers. National sports teams also carry the name Kiwi.


If you use the term kiwi in many northern hemisphere countries, people automatically think of a delicious, nutritious fruit. The kiwifruit, once known as Chinese gooseberries are a juicy green fruit covered in a brown furry skin. They are high in Vitamin C and potassium.

So, even if you are talking about people or delicious fruit, it is important to remember this small flightless bird of New Zealand that has given its name in so many ways.

Fascinating Facts About New Zealand

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Comments (4)

I never knew there were 3 species of Kiwi bird.. I thought only one. Nice link.

Beautiful bird; it is the first time I hear of this bird. As written in your article, I know kiwi as a kind of fruit.

Great article. I love it! I mean the bird. Here in Antwerp Zoo they have a couple, that you have to watch with a camera in their hole. And the last thing is here right in front of me in the fruit basket. The middle meaning has done a great job.

wel researched