Shy birds

by Tracey Barnett

Vom Sterben. Ein Heft über Leben und Tod (Ausgabe IV/2012)


A rare Kiwi snapshot: The birds are nocturnal and extremely shy. Photo: ullstein bild –

Tourists who come to New Zealand for the first time often are disappointed to discover that don’t catch a glimpse of the national bird, the kiwi.

“Kiwi” is also an endearing term for New Zealanders themselves.The New Zealanders were first described as "Kiwis" around 1900, during the Second Boer War. The bird with the dense brown plumage served as a regiment symbol for the New Zealanders fighting on the British side. They wanted to distinguish themselves from the Australians who had chosen the kangaroo as their symbol. The term "Kiwi" became fixed during the First World War, when New Zealand troops were stranded in Salisbury, England in 1918 and waited for months for ships to make the long journey home. They decided to carve a giant kiwi into the front of a chalk mountain. This symbol marked their territory and reminded them of home.

The beloved bird also provided a name for New Zealand's fruit growers: In 1962 they christened the Chinese gooseberry with the more memorable name "kiwi fruit". Today the island state even has a "Kiwi Bank" and the government offers a pension program called "Kiwi Saver". However, even if you venture deep into the jungle, late at night you have to be very lucky to spot the very shy original kiwi.

Translated by Jess Smee

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