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12 surprising flightless birds

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on June 2, 2017, 11:34 a.m.
The kiwi is a small bird from New Zealand.

Photo: Glen Fergus/Wikipedia

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The kiwi is a famously flightless bird and always makes us do a double-take when we look at its round little body, its feathers that look almost like fur, and its unassuming whiskered face. So well loved is the kiwi that it is the national symbol of New Zealand.

There are five species of kiwi, all of which are native to New Zealand. Two of the species are vulnerable, one is endangered, and one is critically endangered. While large swaths of their forest habitat are now protected, they still face the danger of predation by introduced carnivores including cats.

Kiwis have been flightless for so long that their vestigial wings are barely visible among their fluffy feathers. Kiwis lay the largest egg relative to body size of any bird in the world. The shy birds are nocturnal and use their sense of smell to locate prey. Unlike any other bird species, their nostrils are located at the end of their bills, making it easier for them to sniff out the worms, grubs and seeds on which they feed. Adult kiwis mate for life and are monogamous, spending as many as 20 years as a faithful couple.