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Kiwi Facts

Size 10-18 in (25-45 cm)
Speed Up to 12 mph (19 km/h)
Weight 2.8-7.2 lb (1.3–3.3 kg)
Lifespan 8-20 years
Food Earthworms, insects, millipedes
Predators Martens, dogs, weasels, cats
Habitat New Zealand
Order Ratites
Family Kiwis
Scientific name Apteryx
Characteristics Smallest ratite, national symbol of New Zealand

Main Characteristics

Is it a Fruit? Kiwi – brown, small, and green inside – stop, hold on! The term kiwi can also indicate a bird. Yet, the bird is rather unfamiliar outside New Zealand. With its stubby wings, which are not longer than 2 inches (5 cm), it is not able to fly and settle in other countries.

Kiwi Photo: Urban Napflin/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance


The kiwi is a bird, but has a lot in common with mammals. Normally, birds have a thin skin and hollow bones to enhance their flying skills. However, the kiwi has a leathery, thick skin, heavy bones and wings with little claws (like bats).


Body Temperature

For a bird it has a rather low body temperature of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), compared to other birds with about 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius).

Kiwi Photo: John Carnemolla/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

Sense of Smell

Kiwis are mainly active at night, but they have bad eyesight. Yet, they are able to “smell” their way, which is unique in the world of birds. The nostrils of most birds are situated at the transition between the beak and the head. The nostrils of the kiwi are located at the tip of the beak.

Kiwi Photo: Filip Fuxa/Shutterstock


Hunting Strategies

The beak of the kiwi can be up to 7.8 inches (20 cm) long. It is said that the birds use their beaks to fight each other. If this were true, they would risk injuries at their nostrils. It is more likely that they use their strong legs to defend themselves. They also need their beak to gather food. They stick it into the ground in order to detect insects and larvae. If you come across little holes in the ground, which are about 6 inch (15 cm) deep, you can be quite sure: a kiwi was there!


They Can Be Aggressive

The kiwi might look rather cute, but it can be rather ill-tempered. In order to annoy it you only have to imitate its “Ke-weee, Ke-weee” sound. Then the little bird comes running to defend its territory. But watch out: You cannot escape because the kiwi is able to run faster than a human being!

Kiwi Photo: John Carnemolla/Shutterstock


Kiwis build little caves instead of nests. The eggs of the little kiwis are huge. They can be up to 5 inches (13 cm) long, 3 inches (8 cm) wide and reach a weight of up to 16 ounces (450 grams). The kiwis are said to hold the record for the largest egg in relation to body size. But northern storm petrels and ringed plovers lay eggs of similar size.

Fun Facts

Very Popular in New Zealand

The New Zealanders love the kiwi so much that they call themselves Kiwis and have chosen the ratite as their heraldic animal. From the “Kiwi Shoe Polish” shoe finish to kiwi stamps and the Kiwibank – there are references to the little bird practically everywhere. Out of love for the bird the New Zealanders have even named a globally familiar fruit after the kiwi.

The Kiwi Is Related To:

  • Cassowary
  • Emu
  • Greater Rhea
  • Ostrich

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