brown kiwiKiwi makes images of something brown and fuzzy come to mind. This is only half true. The kiwi is not a fruit but a bird from Zealand.

Scientific Name– Apteryx mantelli

Conservation Status– Endangered


The brown kiwi stands 50 to 65 cms tall (20-25inch). Females weigh 2-5kgs and males weigh 1.4-3kg.

The kiwi is flightless due to their heavy bone structure. They are filled with marrow. At the end of the wing is a small non-functional claw. These make it seem more like a mammal than a bird.

On its face the kiwi has modified feathers these act as whiskers.

They are also the only birds which have nostrils on the tip of their beak.


In the wild the kiwi can reach ages of up to 50 years. If they are kept in zoos they more commonly reach 30 years.


The kiwi is an omnivore. They live mainly on a diet of insects. They eat insect larva, moths, spiders, centipedes, weta and crickets. Occasionally they will take fruits, leaves and berries.


The brown kiwi is found only on the North Island of New Zealand.

They inhabit dense temperate rainforests along with subtropical rainforests and areas of scrub and grassland. These birds have also been seen within pine tree plantations. They like their forests to be located in damp gullies.


The kiwi breeds between winter and summer. The male attracts the female’s attention by following her around and grunting.  Once the pair are together they will generally remain together for life. Recently it has been discovered that a ‘divorce’ may occur if a more attractive male wanders by the female.brown kiwi

The male makes a nest for the pair in a hollow log or in a burrow dug into the ground. Into this nest the female will deposit up to 6 eggs. The egg is 20% of the mother’s body weight. The egg is incubated for 75 to 80 days. The male sits on the eggs for this entire time.

The kiwi does not have an egg tooth. This means they kick their way out of the egg. The youngster looks like a miniature version of the parents. The baby develops a lot in the egg due to its large size.

Once out of the egg they consume the egg yolk. They receive most of the food they need to start life from this. They also get essential antifungals and antibacterial from this to protect them in their home which is a breeding ground for these.

They spend just a few days in the nest. After leaving the nest 20 days are spent following the dad around their territory. Then they become independent but may live in their parents territory for another year.


Brown kiwis are highly protective of their territory a trait rarely seen in other birds. Each night they leave smelly droppings that mark the area so other kiwis do not intrude in their area. Some kiwis have been known to fight over territory. Very rarely these will end in death.

The brown kiwi emits a ‘kee-wee’ sound which their name was derived from. They can also emit grunts, hisses and snorts.

To find food the kiwi will poke around in the leaf litter with their long beaks. They can also kick apart a log with their legs to get to the beetles inside.

Kiwi eggs could be so large in part from the lack of predators. Introduced species such as stoats, weasels, dogs, cats, ferrets and rats have placed the species in danger. This has led to a 95% infant mortality rate.

The brown kiwi is primarily nocturnal though recently they have been observed out in the day more often.

Quick facts

The brown kiwi is the one found worldwide in zoos

The kiwi holds the Guinness world record for largest bird egg relative to body size.

The kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand

Photo Credits

Top Photo:  By Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom Photo:By The.Rohit (Elusive Kiwi  Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons