NanoPoblano 2017 – Day 28 – Flightless Birds in New Zealand
N.Z. Flightless Birds
Native New Zealand flightless birds that are not extinct include:
Kiwi (several species) Brown Kiwi,
Kakapo – flightless parrot
Penguins (several species) I will have another article about Penguins, will post soon.
Auckland island teal
New Zealand has more species of flightless birds than any other country.
One reason is that until the arrival of humans roughly a thousand years ago, there were no large land predators.
Why the kiwi is only found in certain parts of New Zealand is destruction of forests, which sad to say is still happening, bringing in the farm aspects like dairying, which tells on flightless birds because they have nowhere to go for shelter from their predators, like rodents, cats, dogs especially rats, which are found everywhere.
Kiwi – The Bird is Flightless and found only in New Zealand.
In the thick bush where I lived in Okoki in Taranaki, New Zealand, I’m very lucky to hear the kiwi calling out at dusk and have even heard them in the early morning.
The North Island Brown Kiwi is a species of kiwi that is widespread in the northern two-thirds of the North Island of New Zealand, with about 35,000 remaining, it is the most common kiwi.
Females stand about 40 cm (16 in) high and weigh about 2.8 kg (6.2 lb) the males about 2.2 kg (4.9 lb).
The plumage is streaky red-brown and spiky.
The kiwi, have 2-3 clutches a year with 2 eggs in each clutch.
The efforts of egg production for the female and incubation for the male cause kiwis to lose about a fifth of their body weight during each breeding attempt.
Chicks are fully feathered at hatching and leave the nest and can fend for themselves within 1 week.
94% of chicks die, before breeding in areas where mammalian pest control is not carried out, namely stoats, dogs, ferrets, and cats, are the number one threat to a kiwi.
Nationwide studies show that on average only 5 percent of kiwi chicks survive to adulthood.
I get quite excited when walking along the bush-clad Urenui river when I came across places where I see the Kiwis have been feeding, one of the signs is the ice cream cone holes, where they have been funneling their beaks in the ground for worms and insects.
Being a flightless bird, it skulks about at night, probing and scraping, for food on the leafy forest floor, it would be so nice to stumble across one during the day.
The Brown Kiwi spends the day fast asleep, concealed in a spot among undergrowth or logs.
In the area where we live, there are some 100 or more wooden stoat boxes set to help eradicate the pests, but it has to be an on-going project, to protect the kiwi’s, which is done well by the East Taranaki Environment Trust.
We also did not have cats or dogs, (as much as I would love a cat) so protecting the kiwis living in the area, if pig or goat shooters are around they should have their dogs trained to not touch kiwis, a requirement by DOC (Department of Conservation) before a license is granted to hunt.
Kiwis: Saving The World’s Cutest Endangered Birds
A fact about Kiwis
After the female kiwi lays her eggs, her mate incubates them for eleven weeks, about 80 days – the longest known incubation period of any bird.
Kakapo Chicks Day Out – Arrowtown, New Zealand
The above Video is about three precious Kakapo Chicks, which were taken to Arrowtown NZ in May 2014 for a one-off public viewing, you can see by those smiling face how the public enjoyed it.
The Kakapo night parrot, also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot endemic to New Zealand.
It was once common all over New Zealand. It has wings, but its body is too heavy to allow it to fly, although it can glide for short distances.
The kakapo is the only species of flightless parrot in the world.
It has finely blotched yellow-green plumage, a distinct facial disc of sensory, vibrissa-like feathers, a large grey beak, short legs, large feet, and wings and a tail of relatively short length.
The beak of the Kakapo is adapted for grinding food finely.
For this reason, the Kakapo has a very small gizzard compared to other birds of their size.
It generally eats native plants, seeds, fruits, pollens and even the sapwood of trees.
A study in 1984 identified 25 plant species as Kakapo food.
It is particularly fond of the fruit of the Rimu tree and will feed on it exclusively during seasons when it is abundant.
The Kakapo is now an endangered species, it is critically endangered.
During the 2008–2009 summer breeding season, the total population of kakapo rose to over 100 for the first time since monitoring began, reaching 154 by 2016, with 116 adults.
Twenty-two of the 34 chicks had to be hand-reared because of a shortage of food on Codfish Island
Photo Credit – A year-old kakapo on Codfish Island.
Having proved hard to breed in captivity, a large protected environment such as an island is its only chance for survival.
Has no male parental care, and is the only parrot to have a polygynous lek breeding system.
What is Lek-Breeding System?
A lek is an aggregation of males that gather to engage in competitive displays that may entice visiting females who are surveying prospective partners for copulation.
Photo Credit – On Tiritiri Matangi Island
South Island Takahe, is a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand and belonging to the rail family.
In the first half of the 20 century, the Takahe was thought to be extinct.
In 1948, a few of these large, blue and green birds were found in a valley in Fiordland in the South Island of New Zealand.
The species is still present in the location where it was rediscovered in the Murchison Mountains.
Small numbers have also been successfully translocated to four predator-free offshore islands, Tiritiri Matangi, Kapiti, Maud and Mana, where they can be viewed by the public.
Additionally, captive Takahe can be viewed at Te Anau and Mt Bruce wildlife centers.
Takahe at Tawharanui
In June 2006, a pair of Takahe were relocated to the Maungatautari Restoration Project.
A related species, the North Island Takahe is extinct and only known from skeletal remains.
The Takahe cannot be bred successfully in captivity.
In January 2011, a small number of Takahe were released in Zealandia, Wellington.
In total, there were 225 remaining birds.
The population stood at 263 at the beginning of 2013. In 2016 the population rose to 306 Takahe.
I have read that the Takahe cannot be bred successfully in captivity, at this point it seems there has been some success. Good News.
The North Island Takahe is extinct, it appears to have been larger than the South Island Takahe and, if it did survive until the 1890s, it would have been the largest rail in historic times.
Weka or Woodhen
The Weka (also known as Maori hen or Woodhen) is a flightless bird species of the rail family.
It is endemic to New Zealand, where four subspecies are recognized.
Wekas usually lay eggs between August and January; both sexes help to incubate.
Wekas are predominantly rich brown mottled with black and grey; the brown shade varies from pale to dark depending on subspecies.
Wekas occupy areas such as forests, sub-alpine grassland, sand dunes, rocky shores and modified semi-urban environments.
They are omnivorous, with a diet comprising 30% animal foods and 70% plant foods.
Animal foods include earthworms, larvae, beetles, weta, ants, grass grubs, slugs, snails, insect eggs, slaters, frogs, spiders, rats, mice, and small birds.
Plant foods include leaves, grass, berries, and seeds.
Flightless bird in New Zealand – Weka
Wekas can raise up to four broods throughout the whole year.
On average, female Wekas lay three creamy or pinkish eggs blotched with brown and mauve. Both sexes incubate.
The chicks hatch after a month and are fed by both parents until fully grown between six and ten weeks
Wekas are unable to withstand the current pressures faced in both the North Island and South Island of New Zealand.
Predations are ferret cats, and dogs they are a threat to adult Wekas.
Stoats rats and ferrets are a threat to chicks and the eggs.
Auckland Teal Ducks
In the photo above the Auckland Teal is in the front, with Brown Teal above.
Interesting fact about the Auckland Teal Duck – Most people think that ducks fly, but the Auckland Teal lost the power of flight because their wings are very small so flight is impossible.
The Auckland Teal or Auckland Islands Teal is a species of dabbling duck of the genus Anas that is endemic to the Auckland Islands south of New Zealand.
The species was once found throughout the Auckland Islands but is now restricted to the islands that lack introduced predators; Adams Island, Enderby Island, Disappointment Island and a few smaller islands.
The Auckland Teal is smaller and rarer than the Brown Teal of the main islands of New Zealand, a species with which it was once considered conspecific.
The plumage is all over brown with a hint of green on the neck and a conspicuous white eye-ring.
The female is slightly darker than the male.
The wings are very small and the species has, like the related Campbell Teal, lost the power of flight.
The Auckland Teal is mostly crepuscular to nocturnal, preferring to hide from predators New Zealand Falcons and skuas, (skuas is a flying seabird), during the day.
The species inhabits a variety of habitats with the islands, including tussock fields, megaherb, shrubland, and coastal waters.
It is carnivorous for the most part, feeding on marine invertebrates, insects, amphipods and other small Invertebrates.
Auckland Teal are territorial and seldom form flocks.
Fascinating to discover so many flightless bird species in NZ. Very informative. I feel I have gained a better understanding of the plight of these endangered species. Great photos and videos. Thanks for sharing!
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Thank you for your comment, I appreciate it.
All the best for a peaceful week.
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Trust you have a peaceful week as well.
So, Elsie, you are outed as a bird watcher and indeed a writer who rambles! Hooray for this celebration of our flightless birds. I’m sure you are familiar with the marvellous nzbirdsonline.org.nz— what a resource, and how did we manage without it?
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Thanks for the link, there are many sites about New Zealand birds, but not everyone around the world knows about that link that you left in your comment.
I’m sharing this information with my readers, hopefully, they will learn something about NZ birds that they never knew before.
Another wonderful and informative post, Elsie. It’s so interesting to read about the flightless birds!
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It was interesting to read about and see the videos of the birds. Thanks for sharing the information! 🙂
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coming back to glide through this post some more as well…
and my feedback right now is how nice that flightless bird video was – it was such a “natural habitat” raw footage…