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Fast Facts: New Zealand

New ZealandOften called the land of birds, New Zealand’s wildlife is dominated by an estimated 245 bird species. New Zealand has more flightless bird species than any other place on earth and no native land mammals except for bats.

Kiwi.

  • The Kiwi is New Zealand’s national bird and considered an evolutionary oddity. It differs from all other bird species on earth.
     
  • Kiwis are considered "unbirdlike" and fill an ecological niche elsewhere occupied by mammals such as anteaters and hedgehogs.
     
  • Unlike other birds, the Kiwi has a strong sense of smell.
     
  • The Kiwi’s nostrils are situated at the end of its beak, unlike other birds that have their nostrils near the back of their beak. Its beak is equipped with pressure and vibration detectors enabling it to detect its prey deep underground.
     
  • The Kiwi lays the biggest egg in proportion to its body-size. Even though the Kiwi is about the size of a chicken, its egg is six times the size of a chicken egg. The largest recorded Kiwi egg weighed 500 grams.
     
  • The male usually incubates the egg. The male of the Brown Kiwi species nurtures the egg alone for up to 80 days – the longest incubation period of any bird.

Snares Crested Penguins.

  • New Zealand has the world’s most diverse penguin population, with six of the 17 species living and breeding in New Zealand, four of them endemic.
     
  • The Snares crested penguin stands about one foot 4 inches (40cm) tall and weighs around 6.5 pounds (3 kilograms).
     
  • The Snares crested penguin breeds only on the small Snares Islands to the south of New Zealand.

Kakapo.

  • Weighing in at up to nine pounds (four kilograms) the Kakapo is the heaviest parrot in the world. It’s also the world’s only flightless and only nocturnal parrot.
     
  • The Kakapo can live up to 120 years, and the average life span is 95 years.

Kea.

  • The Kea is the only alpine parrot in the world. It has evolved a thick plumage and is known for its intelligence and curiosity, vital attributes for its survival in the harsh mountain conditions.
     
  • The Kea is mainly an opportunistic vegetarian feeder but it’s also the only species of parrot known to attack and kill other animals.

Haast Eagle and Moas.

  • The tallest bird that ever lived was New Zealand’s Moa, which became extinct about 600 years ago – a century after the arrival of humans in New Zealand.  The largest of the Moa species were up to 13 feet tall.
     
  • In the land of birds, the top predator was also a bird – the Haast Eagle with talons the size of tiger claws and a wing span of ten feet (three metres). Its main prey was the moa and after they died out the massive eagle also became extinct.

Giant Snail.

  • The Giant Snail’s genetic lineage dates back 200 million years and it’s considered to be a living fossil.
     
  • The Giant Snail is a carnivorous land snail that eats worms, slurping it up like spaghetti.

Tuatara.

  • Two species of Tuatara are the only surviving members of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago.
     
  • The Tuatara features a third eye – a pineal eye – that can detect light. This feature predates the age of dinosaurs.
     
  • Tuataras can measure up to 31 inches (80 cm) from head to tail-tip, weigh up to 2.9 pounds (1.3 kilograms), and can live for a century or longer.

Black Robin with the Flower of Hades.

  • Once a year, in New Zealand’s forests, a strange root parasite blooms producing a pheromone which mimics mammal sweat and which the short tailed bat finds irresistible. 
     
  • The bat drinks the nectar and returns the favour by pollinating the Flower of Hades. Here a black robin inspects a Flower of Hades.

Short Tailed bat.

  • Unlike most bats, which catch their prey in the air, the Short Tailed Bat is adapted to ground hunting and is the only bat that scrambles over the ground as well as flies. It is a slow flier that seldom gets higher than three metres off the ground, so it spends most its time on the forest floor using its folded wings as limbs to scramble around.
     
  • To attract females Short Tailed Bat males gather in small areas to sing. Females travel as far as 10km to visit the males. This behaviour is called lekking.