Strange Birds

“Strange Birds,” Tambuli, Sept. 1977, 17


Strange Birds

In a beauty contest for birds, New Zealand’s kiwi would be quickly eliminated. This odd-looking bird resembles a half-inflated soccer with hair, and its long, slender beak might even remind you of the ball’s inflation needle that someone forgot to remove. The kiwi’s natural habitat is the forests of New Zealand.

Besides its strange appearance, the kiwi differs from other birds in several ways. Its feathers look like dull brown hair, it has no tail, and it cannot fly. Underneath its hair-like feathers are two knobby lumps where most birds sprout wings, but they are of no use to this odd bird. The kiwi is also the only bird with nostrils at the tip of its bill for smelling out food.

A full-grown kiwi weighs about 1.5 kilo or about the same as a chicken. Its eggs weigh up to 1/2 kilo each and, in relation to the size of the bird, are the largest of all bird eggs.

The hummingbird, the smallest of all birds, has to wait from 14 to 16 days for its eggs to hatch. Incubation time for a chicken egg is about 21 days. The ostrich is the largest bird in the world, and it takes about 42 days for its eggs to hatch. How long do you think it takes a kiwi egg to hatch? Here again, this bird lives up to its reputation for strangeness. About 75 days of incubation are required for a kiwi egg to hatch!

You may never see a kiwi even if you were to go to New Zealand; unless, of course, you see one in a zoo. In their natural surroundings, they spend the day inside their homes, which are holes in the ground. Then they come out at night to look for their favorite food—worms, insects, and berries. And the kiwi’s long, needle-like bill is a perfect tool for pulling worms from the ground.