March 14: The kiwi bird is one of the most common symbols of New Zealand. It is also the country’s national bird. And that’s not all. It features as an insignia on New Zealand’s coat of arms as well.
New Zealanders consider the kiwi their most enduring national symbol and until now, they believed that the bird did not even exist outside New Zealand. But recently, a group of scientists, led by researcher Alan Cooper, has made a startling statement – the kiwi might have Australian origins.
For months, the scientists have been studying the emu, an Australian bird that does not fly. New Zealanders have always believed that the kiwi has evolved from a giant bird found in their country a very long time ago. This bird, known as moa, is extinct today. That’s not true, says the team. The scientists say that the kiwi is more closely related to the emu than any other bird.
The Asian Age reports that the news has dealt a bitter blow to the national pride of the New Zealanders. They are particularly annoyed that the kiwis origins might be Australian.
The two neighbouring countries, New Zealand and Australia, are rivals. Australia is the more high profile nation out of the two. It hosted the Olympics recently and the Games were described as amongst the best-organised shows in recent times.
Australia has overshadowed New Zealand in several fields. These include politics, economic affairs and even sports, especially cricket. The Australians have Sir Donald Bradman!
And now Australia seems all set to claim New Zealands national bird for its own, too!
All this is giving the New Zealanders an identity crisis of sorts. After all, New Zealanders are known as Kiwis in slang!
The kiwi has neither wings nor a tail. It has fur-like feathers and nostrils at the end of its long beak. It is a nocturnal creature and wanders around at night, its head bobbing up and down continuously as it sniffs the forest floor in an endless quest for food.
The kiwi is primarily carnivorous. It hunts for spiders, snails and a variety of insects including the weta, a large cricket found in New Zealand. The bird also enjoys a meal of berries and seeds.
When kiwis hunt, they use their nostrils to probe the forest floor rather than disturb it with their feet.