kiwi

kiwi (kēˈwē) [key] or apteryx ăpˈtərĭks, common name for the smallest member of an order of primitive flightless birds related to the ostrich, the emu, and the cassowary. The kiwi, named by the Maoris for its shrill, piping call, is most closely related to the extinct moa. It is the size of a large chicken and has short, stout legs and coarse, dark plumage that hides the rudimentary wings. It lacks wing and tail plumes and walks with a rolling gait. It is the only bird whose nostrils open at the tip of the bill, which is 6 in. (15 cm) long, slender, and curved. Kiwis hide during the day and forage at night for grubs and worms. Their eyesight is poor; the long, hairy bristles at the base of the bill are believed to have a tactile function which is thought to supplement their keen sense of smell in hunting. Kiwis nest in underground burrows, the male performing the incubational duties. The one or two chalky white eggs are 5 in. (12.5 cm) long, weigh almost 1 lb. (0.5 kg), and take from 75 to 80 days to hatch. The three living species of kiwi, genus Apteryx, have dwindled with the advance of agriculture and the introduction of predators such as cats, weasels, and stoats, but they are now rigidly protected by law. The kiwi is the symbol of New Zealand and appears on the seal, coins, stamps, and on various products of its homeland; overseas New Zealand troops are popularly called kiwis. Kiwis are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Struthioniformes, family Apterygidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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