Day 821: Kiwi

The difference between life at the research station and Laetitia’s life back in Hibernia was that one couldn’t go home when the work when the day’s work was finished.  There was a semblance of a workweek that allowed them more free time on Sunday and that often was the best time to lead a tour.  On this Sunday she brought her tour group to Stewart Island to view wildlife including the rare kiwi.  Located off the southern tip of New Zealand, the island is mostly (85%) Rakiura National Park.  When they decided to make Stewart Island a nature preserve, New Zealand systematically eradicated all the predators so that kiwis and other vulnerable ground species could survive.

Laetitia arranged with a local guide to lead the tour in order to maximize their chances of seeing kiwis in their natural habitat.  The group hiked during the day and then that evening went to a designated beach to watch the nocturnal flightless birds feeding on sand hoppers and kelp.  This endemic bird is New Zealand’s national symbol and is commonly used as a colloquial word for New Zealanders.  Similar in size to the domestic chicken, the kiwi lays the largest egg in relation to its body size of any bird species in the world.  Kiwis are monogamous and nest in burrows. There are four species.  The birds seen on Stewart Island are Southern Brown Kiwis.

There is no real connection between Kiwis and Kiwi Fruit.  New Zealanders called the large fuzzy brown berries “Chinese gooseberries” until New Zealand began exporting them and wanted them to have a name associated with their country.

The Kiwi bird’s fuzzy and round
And flightless, spends life on the ground
And gives not a hoot
For what’s called Kiwi Fruit
A name that admen did propound.