Kiwis are the last group of Ratites. They are easily distinguished because they are far smaller than their relatives and because they have their nostrils at the tip of their bills not near the base. They are only found in New Zealand.
Kiwis are only the size of a common chicken. They live in dense native coniferous forest and are nocturnal, feeding on worms and other invertebrates for which they probe into the soft forest floor with their long sensitive bills. There are three species; Apteryx australis - the Brown Kiwi which is the largest, A. hoastii - the Great Spotted Kiwi, and the Little Spotted Kiwi - A. awenii, which is the smallest. There are several subspecies of the Brown Kiwi on various islands.
The males have a call with a long ascending phrase and a short descending phrase which gives rise to the nave Kiwi. Kiwis are unique in that the females have two functional ovaries, in all other species birds females only have one working ovary. They also hold the record for laying the largest egg in relationship to body size. Each of the 1-3 eggs the female lays weighs about 25% of her total weight.
Kiwis breed during the southern winter during which time they form pair bonds. The male excavates a burrow or digs a hole under a tree and the female lays her eggs in the end of this. The male does all the incubation which, because of the size of the eggs takes 78-82 days. The young are not fed for the first few days of their lives because though they are precocial, there is so much yolk in the eggs that they are born with plenty of food reserves. Kiwis are slow growing birds, taking up to 5 years to reach maturity. Kiwis were called 'Te manu huna a Tane' by the Maoris, meaning 'Hidden bird of Tane' - Tane being the god of the forest.