Friday, 22 October 2010

Kiwis are... two very different sorts of two legged creatures

This article is for readers outside New Zealand who may be interested to learn a little about local life and customs:

Both types of kiwis are native to New Zealand: one is a shy, flightless bird about the size of a domestic hen which is nocturnal, has large feet and an exceptionally long beak; the other is the human population of New Zealand.

Just how New Zealanders came to be widely associated with this distinctive bird is clarified in this Wikipedia article - scroll down to the heading 'As a national symbol'.  The kiwi began to be used as an easily identifiable national symbol as early as the 1880s, and became common as a term for New Zealanders during World War One when New Zealand soldiers were referred to as such.

Beyond shared nationality and having the same number of legs there is little similarity between the two types.  Indeed, far from being flightless, the human sort rank among the world's keenest air travellers perhaps spurred to do so by the relative isolation of our island habitat. 

Modern air travel places New Zealand within easy reach of the rest of the world, but geographically our island home has a very long history of isolation, separating from the nearest land mass, Australia, over 80 million years ago.  This isolation meant that existing species developed to suit distinctive environmental conditions and over time became very different to related species elsewhere.

Within the last thousand years humans arriving for the first time brought with them predators such as rats, stoats, possums and many others, as well as ways of life which have caused the extinction of many species and extensive loss of habitats.  For this reason news items about conservation work with endangered species are commonplace and are the subject of close attention for many.  Kiwis are an endangered species.

In the video below you can see a kiwi being rehabilitated after breaking both legs in separate accidents.  He is being given his exercise, and seems reluctant.  I think I'd peck my handler too if made to do the same thing!  There is no additional value in the sound track so if you find it tedious, you can turn the sound off or go to the link to the news item below it.  It includes the same video but differently edited and without music.  It didn't play the first time I attempted to view it, hence the YouTube clip:



Here is the full news item as published on 29th July 2010.  

If you're wondering what sounds kiwis make you can listen to them here:
I've linked to the whole Department of Conservation (DOC) bird list so that you can find the birdsong of other birds as well.  The song of the tui is particularly engaging.

If you're interested in learning more about efforts to build up the kiwi (bird) population, you can view details of one such project on this clip:
(Be aware that the end of the recording accidentally includes some unpleasant electronic feedback and be ready to turn your sound down.)

Lots of additional information can be found through further exploration of the Department of Conservation website.  

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