Kiwis are the iconic bird of NZ, but bordering on extinction. These flightless, nocturnal birds occupied a mammal niche here in NZ, and then mammals got introduced – mice, rats, stoats, dogs. Signs say one dog killed 150 kiwi in one night; apparently a kiwi smells like chocolate to a dog. Now there is an enormous effort within NZ to preserve these (and other) threatened birds (and lizards).
We wanted to see a kiwi, and so went to a Kiwi House (and museum). There are a lot of these houses around NZ, part of the breeding program. The houses switch lighting by 12 hours, so the confused animals think daytime is nighttime, and we can see them (maybe). Our bad luck, the female had been sent for release and a new young one had just arrived and was experiencing jet lag; the male’s territory was cut in half, and he was hiding. We came back another time and another day, and fared no better. We did see the resident Morepork (owl). Below are pictures, including my shot of the kiwi (or rather his beak, poking from his lair).
We’ll visit more of these houses, because these birds are ‘way too cute! A stuffed kiwi is shown here (from the museum), along with the single egg the female lays. She lays a single egg for obvious reasons. Ouch!
The museum had a number of interesting Maori artifacts that I’ll show off. The first is a “Mere”, a Maori club typically made from NZ jade called “greenstone”. It’s basically in the shape of a flattened tear drop, with sharp edges. It’s about a foot long; hand-to-hand combat are us! Mere must have been very popular, because they are in many (most?) of the Maori carvings. Then there is a Maori powder horn, a purse made of flax, an instrument used for tattooing (the cutting part made of bone), and a cloak – a flax garment with feathers woven into it.
These are basically Stone Age people doing all their cutting with jade (sometimes obsidian), but they did have talent!