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Kiwi are nocturnal, which means that they come out of their burrows after nightfall to forage for insects, grubs, earthworms, fallen fruit and native plants.
Other night birds are equipped with big powerful eyes so they can see at night. The kiwi is different. It has a well-developed sense of smell with the part of the brain controlling this sense being much larger and more like a mammal's structure than a bird’s. A kiwi’s small eyes do not see as well at night – instead it feels, smells and hears its way around.
Big ear openings provide a very good sense of hearing and the long graceful whiskers and sensitive bill help it locate food in the soil and leaf litter. The kiwi is often given away by the sound of its uniquely placed 'noisy' nostrils at the tip of its bill. As it walks it taps the ground with its bill, probing the soil and sniffing loudly.
Far from being a shy night creature, kiwi are bold and territorial - superbly adapted for life in the forest.
Kiwi feathers are different to those of most birds. From a distance they look more like fur, although when stroked you can feel the feather structure. The feathers hang loose; they keep the rain out and the warmth in. Unlike other birds the feathers moult throughout the year and are constantly being renewed.
The feather patterns allow kiwi to disappear into the dark and fade into the forest vegetation. When distressed, a kiwi freezes, disguising itself from aerial predators.
Largest egg in the world
It takes between 16 months to three years for birds to be sexually mature enough to breed. Breeding usually occurs between July and February. The female North Island Brown Kiwi has two functional ovaries which is unusual in the bird-world. The kiwi egg is the largest in the world in relation to the size of the bird laying it; it also contains the largest proportion of yolk. Incubation is done by the male and can take anything from 74-90 days.
Kiwi chicks are instinctive feeders and are not taught by parent birds to forage for food. When first hatched, the belly of the chick is swollen with yolk which will sustain them for their first few days.
Other facts about the kiwi you might not know:
Kiwi are omnivorous and although worms form a major part of their diet, they will also readily eat woodlice, millipedes, centipedes, slugs, snails, spiders, insects, seeds, berries and plant material.
Kiwi feed at night and probe into the ground with their bill up to a depth of 12cm.
Stoats, ferrets and weasels are the biggest threat to the survival of kiwi, closely followed by cats and dogs – only 5% of kiwi hatched in the wild survive to adulthood.