The Kiwi

The Kiwi is the most ancient bird found in New Zealand. It has been here for over 60 million years and is unique to New Zealand. It is a nocturnal bird with weak eyesight, is flightless, rather small and sturdy, with a long beak. It nests in holes on the forest floor. Despite its awkward appearance, a kiwi can actually outrun a human and have managed to survive because of their alertness and their sharp, three-toed feet, which enable them to kick and slash an enemy. Kiwis have been known to live up to twenty years.

The Kiwi, New Zealand's National Symbol

The Kiwi, New Zealand's National Symbol

The Kiwi as an emblem first appeared late last century in New Zealand regimental badges. Badges of the South Canterbury Battalion in 1886 and the Hastings Rifle Volunteers in 1887 both featured kiwis. Later, kiwis appeared in a great number of military badges. The Kiwi symbol began to be recognised internationally in 1906 when Kiwi Shoe Polish was launched in Melbourne by a man with a New Zealand born wife. The polish was widely marketed in Britain and the USA during World War I and later. By 1908, kiwis were appearing in numerous sporting, political, and other newspaper cartoons.

During the First World War, New Zealanders carved a giant kiwi on the chalk hill above Sling Camp in England. In Flanders during the war, the name "Kiwi" for New Zealand soldiers came into general use. The Kiwi (New Zealand Army) Football Team which toured the British Isles, France and Germany in 1945-46 also enhanced the emblem's popularity.

The Kiwi bird has become a national symbol for New Zealand. Today, New Zealanders overseas (and at home) are still invariably called "Kiwis". The Kiwi is still closely associated with the Armed Forces. The New Zealand dollar is often referred to as the "The Kiwi" and the kiwi fruit is known as a "Kiwi" in some countries. Kiwis feature in the coat of arms, crests and badges of many New Zealand cities, clubs and organisations.

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