A National Treasure

I don’t know about you guys, but I really didn’t know much about the Kiwi bird other than it is in the flightless bird category along with the ostrich and emu.  I didn’t even realize they are only found in New Zealand.  Not Australia, not Fiji, not anywhere else but here.

If you’d like to learn just a bit more, read and watch on because I’ve just had a Kiwi encounter at The Kiwi Conservation Centre and it was really cool.

Not only are Kiwi nocturnal, but they are shy, and endangered, so spotting one in the Bush is understandably uncommon.  I learned today there once were over a million kiwi birds throughout New Zealand, but due to the introduction of predators such as dogs, opossum, stoats, ferrets, and others, the population currently sits around 66,000.

The Māori Village, Te Puia, I visited this morning is home to the Kiwi Conservation Center, which is a breeding facility for the Brown North Island Kiwi.  It was so cool, because they have an indoor natural habitat divided into 3 sections, one for each “breeding” kiwi, two female, one male. Night and day have been reversed in the habitat, so folks like me might see the Kiwi naturally going about its business. The Kiwi can’t see us through the triple paned glass and they can’t hear us, so they remain completely undisturbed by us gawkers passing by.

As I recall, the Kiwis in the inside enclosure are around 4 years old, prime mating age.  Since Kiwi are so very territorial, it can take 6 months or more for the male and female to “agree” to having the wall between them removed.  The keepers will know this because the Kiwi will begin calling to each other.  Once this happens, the divider is removed and fingers are crossed nature will take its course.  If successful, at some point the pair who have just mated for life will be moved to the large outdoor habitat to lay the eggs and raise the young which will then hopefully be released into the wild.

No photography of any kind was allowed, so I’ve snagged this YouTube video of a brown kiwi in action and it looks like it may actually be working!  

They really are funny looking animals.  I was surprised by the length of the beak and the feathers that look more like fur.  What say you?

And these are the information boards along the path heading into the Kiwi Center.  I’ll let them do the ‘splaining.

As you read above, the Kiwi and its feathers have great significance in the Māori culture and were used to weave into Kiwi feather cloaks for people of high rank.  Below you can see a photo of one of the two cloaks in my AirBnB home.  Louise, my host, is keeper of the Family land and artifacts.  While kiwi feathers cannot be used today due to their endangered status of the birds, she feels very fortunate to have these two family cloaks made by her great grandmother prior to the second world war.  They are still worn today by members of her family whenever there is a significant occasion or ceremony, such as a graduation or wedding.  Isn’t it lovely?  I love the design mix of woven flax and feathers. The other one she has is full feathers, no flax weaving showing through at all. 

The backing of each is woven flax.  Hand gathered on the property, prepared during a multi stage and multi, multi day preparation process, and then woven by hand.  Each of the thousands of Kiwi feathers has its own preparation process as well.  Works of art, no doubt.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning just a bit about the New Zealand Kiwi bird.  I know I’m happy to know more and am looking forward to perhaps seeing one in the wild a bit further in my trip.  

Stewart Island is a small island which is due south of the South Island and there is an even smaller island off the coast of Stewart Island.  It is here I understand Kiwi might be seen during the day since that island is sans predator.  I’ll be down there late January or early February, so I’ll let you guys know once I get down there and get the lay of the land.

Coming up should be posts about what I’ve learned in regards to Māori culture around Rotorua and the geothermal activity including Geysers and boiling mud.

Until next time then.

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Comments:

  • Marcia Bronson

    December 10, 2022

    Fascinating birds!!

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  • Melissa Shuttleworth Lucas

    December 15, 2022

    Wow….so fascinating! I am loving all your posts and so grateful as I feel like I’m traveling along with you! Stay well dear friend!

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  • Tena

    December 20, 2022

    The cloak is gorgeous. So glad you have the opportunity to see these wonderful creatures. Hope that island off Stewart Island rewards you with a real-time view in the wild.

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  • Margie

    December 21, 2022

    I think so too and how cool they still wear it on special occasions? And I too hope to catch a glimpse of a kiwi bird in the wild though I have to say the habitat they have at the breeding center was really neat.

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