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Teensy flightless birds!

The Little Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx owenii) is the smallest of the kiwi species, and can be found on a few small New Zealand islands, having been wiped out from the North and South Islands after European colonization. A small population was left on D’Urville Island and then reintroduced to Kapiti Island, after which it was placed on Long Island, Hen Island, Red Mercury Island and Tiritiri Matangi Island. There’s also a sanctuary in Wellington with a small population of Little Spotted Kiwis. The total population is currently just over 1,500 birds.


Little Spotted Kiwis can grow up to 18 inches (45 cm) and weigh up to 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg). Females generally outweigh the males. Their plumage is a mottled gray and they have long, whiskery feathers right around the hinge of their beaks, or gape. To distinguish adult Little Spotted Kiwis from juvenile Great Spotted Kiwis, observe the color of their legs. Juvenile Great Spotted Kiwis have dark gray legs, while Little Spotted Kiwis have pale gray legs.

The diet of Little Spotted Kiwis consists mainly of invertebrates such as larvae, earthworms, beetles, cicadas, moths, flies and spiders. They supplement this with seeds, fruit and even leaves that can be found while scavenging around the forest floor. Little Spotted Kiwis are nocturnal, and hide in their burrows/nests during the day. They call to each other when they’re out and about at night, and will defend themselves against strange kiwis in their territory.


Little Spotted Kiwis form monogamous mating pairs, only rarely taking a different partner while their former partner is still living. Female Little Spotted Kiwis have to put a lot of energy into egg production, because the size of the egg relative to her is proportionally the largest egg of any bird in the world. Sometimes (15%) she will even lay a clutch of two! The male incubates the egg for approximately 70 days, after which the chick will hatch. For the first week of its life, the Little Spotted Kiwi chick will feed on the yolk sack from its egg, then venture out of the nest to forage on its own, returning only to sleep. Chicks are never fed by their parents.


Little Spotted Kiwi were extirpated from the North and South Islands of New Zealand due to over-hunting for skins and museum specimens, as well as the introduction of ground predators like dogs, weasels and cats. Reintroduction efforts on the smaller islands are going well, and the population is steadily increasing. It is currently considered to be a near-threatened species by the IUCN.


Sources (1, 2) for all images used in this post.

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