Strongly associated with New Zealand, the country’s national bird belongs to an intriguing family of five species, all of which are endemic to the island archipelago. These nocturnal birds are the smallest of the flightless ratites (an ancient Gondwanaland group that includes the Ostriches, Rheas, Emu and Cassowaries) yet lay the largest eggs in relation to body size of any bird in the world. Like other ratites, they lack a keel on the sternum for wing muscles to attach. In fact, their wings are so small that they are concealed under their bristly feathers. While most birds have hollow bones to facilitate flight, kiwis have marrow similar to mammals, allowing females to carry and lay eggs as much as one-quarter of their weight.
The second rarest (after the Okarito Kiwi) and smallest of the kiwis is the Little Spotted Kiwi, photographed here by Adam Riley. Once widespread on the North and South Islands, this kiwi is now extinct on the mainland, owing to the introduction of predators (such as cats and dogs), habitat loss and a large skin trade. It exists today only on a few offshore islands and one mainland sanctuary with a total population of about 1,200 birds. Rockjumper is proud to support a kiwi conservation project which includes our sponsored North Island Brown Kiwi, “McCaw”! Read the latest update here.
Rockjumper is also proud to be one of the very few fully licensed bird tour operators in New Zealand with comprehensive Department of Conservation permits, allowing us to make our own arrangements when visiting the essential reserves that harbour New Zealand’s most endangered species. Also, one of our senior bird tour leaders, Erik Forsyth, who is in his 14th year of guiding for Rockjumper, is now based in New Zealand.
We are therefore well positioned to offer unbeatable scheduled and custom-made birding tours guided by Erik. Our scheduled Comprehensive New Zealand tours are offered at the beginning and end of each year during prime birding season. This itinerary thoroughly covers all 3 main islands, as well as small offshore islands and pelagic outings which allow you the opportunity to see almost all of New Zealand’s amazing birds. These include such specials as the prehistoric Takahe, North Island Kokako, Kea, both species of striking Saddlebacks and Stitchbird. To further whet your appetite, we also look for Blue Duck, Black Stilt, the cute New Zealand Rockwren and New Zealand Falcon, while seabirds include the Northern Royal Albatross, New Zealand Storm Petrel and Yellow-eyed Penguin.
However, if you’re pressed for time, but still want to enjoy the delights that this region has to offer, then our New Zealand Highlights tour is recommended for you. This tour will give you chances for all of New Zealand’s 5 endemic bird families as well as many of the country’s other endemics and specialties – with less time and travelling. Rockjumper is also offering an extension on some of our New Zealand tours to the seldom visited Chatham Islands, which boasts 10 little known endemic or near-endemic species unlikely to be encountered elsewhere. Private custom-made tour enquiries to New Zealand are also welcome and we would be thrilled to put an itinerary proposal together that suits your individual requirements.
Finally, there are just a few spaces remaining on our New Zealand Subantarctic Island Cruise from 4 – 11 January 2017. We have chartered the whole vessel for this once-in-a-lifetime experience to the remote Campbell, Auckland and Snares Islands, in partnership with the American Birding Association, as well as Bill Thompson III’s This Birding Life podcast. We also have a very special offer available: we are now selling 3 comfortable and spacious suites on the Spirit of Enderby at the same rate as a Superior Plus cabin. Make sure not to miss out on this great deal.