Today I’ve decided to write about New Zealand’s humble kiwi. Which one you might ask. I imagine Americans recognise only one kiwi, the delicious green or gold fruit. But we do have a couple more which are so much more common to us. New Zealand’s national bird is the kiwi. And for every New Zealander when travelling overseas, we use and are all known as kiwis.
Let’s get rid of the humble kiwi fruit. Despite its name, this fruit is not native to New Zealand but originated in China. It arrived in NZ early in the 20th century. Because it tasted similar to a gooseberry, it became a Chinese gooseberry. As an export fruit to USA in the mid 1950s its name was unacceptable. Hence the term kiwifruit was adopted. This soon become shortened in USA to kiwi.
A kiwi is a New Zealander. First World War NZ soldiers were referred to as ‘kiwis’. The nickname stuck. We proudly embrace the moniker. Never be afraid to use the term when referring to a New Zealander. It is not derogatory and we wear it with pride. When people are travelling again, you’ll likely see some form of ‘kiwi’ on a person. We are proud and the kiwi is a symbol of that pride.
Now it’s time to consider the ‘real’ New Zealand humble kiwi. Our country’s most treasured icon. The kiwi bird. “The kiwi is a unique and curious bird: it cannot fly, has loose, hair-like feathers, strong legs and no tail.” (NZ Dept of Conservation). If you see this nocturnal bird in the wild you are so lucky. My experience is only via museums/sanctuaries/zoos. Because of introduced pests, the kiwi population is in jeopardy. But thankfully, programmes exist to rid our forests of pests and protect our incredible kiwis. https://www.savethekiwi.nz/about-kiwi/kiwi-facts/ It’s easy to feel so proud of such an unusual creature. Recently one of my sons took part in a night walk on Stewart Island. He and his friend were able to photograph kiwis so close. He reported one actually pecked at his friend’s leg.
The video has no sound obviously. Kiwis are rather shy and skittish. Any movement or unnatural sound would have scared this kiwi away. I’m so envious of my son’s interaction with this bird.
There is a fun children’s story of how the kiwi lost his ability to fly. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/whanganui-chronicle/news/museum-notebook-how-kiwi-lost-his-wings/L2QUSAP54U473UOPRHGXWUSHBY/ . This story is often attributed as a Maori legend, but Alwyn Owen wrote it in 1965. It became a beloved children’s story. Most kiwi children know how much the kiwi sacrificed.