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Animals & Creatures

New Zealand Animals and other creatures

In this area of we will put together New Zealands animals and other living creatures that we think are icons of NZ. Our definition of an icon is a living creature that is famous in New Zealand and should be known in the rest of the world. Some creatures you would know others you may not (but should), but if you mention any of these creatures to a New Zealander they will know what you are talking about, from Kiwi to Tuatara.

Yellow Eyed Penguin

The Kiwi

picture of a kiwi

The "kiwi" (shown above) is a flightless bird native to New Zealand. (New Zealanders also like to call themselves "Kiwis".) The Kiwi is New Zealand's national symbols.
The kiwi (bird) is unusual in at least two respects. First, it is the only bird in the world that has its nostrils at the end of its beak. Second, the female kiwi has the largest egg, in proportion to its body size, of any bird in the world (except possibly for the hummingbird). Kiwis are about the same size as chickens, but their eggs are almost as big as those of ostriches. Kiwis are hard to see in the wild but there are many places to see them in captivity around NZ.

The Tuatara


Tuatara The tuatara is only found in New Zealand and is in danger of becoming extinct!
It is a reptile but not a lizard.
It is the last remaining member of the ancient group of reptiles, Sphenodontia.
Tuatara is a Maori word meaning "peaks on the back". It is easy to see why.

The tuatara is famous because it is a very ancient  it is the only survivor Tuatara!of a large group of reptiles that roamed the earth at the same time as dinosaurs. It hasn't changed its form much in over 225 million years! The relatives of tuatara died out about 60 million years ago which is why the tuatara is sometimes called a living fossil'

Tuatara are hard to see in the wild because the islands they have been relocated to are well protected. If you wanted to see one you could try the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington, Tuatarium in Invercargill or Rainbow Springs in Rotorua.

Tuatara have the potential to live up to 300 years in the right conditions. The average life span is 80 - 100 years. The oldest in captivity is Henry who is 120 - 130 years old in the Tuatarium at Invercargill.

Tuatara take 35 years to grow to their full size of 600mm (24 inches or 2ft) In cooler temperatures during winter their metabolism slows down to 10 heart beats per min and 1 breath per hour. During this time, because their metabolism has slowed they don't require food.They can survive without eating for a year.

A strolling kakapo

The Fabulous Kakapo

The ancient, flightless Kakapo is the world's rarest and strangest parrot. It the only flightless and nocturnal parrot, as well as being the heaviest in the world, weighing up to 3.5 kilograms (8 lbs).
The birds live in New Zealand, an island country which had virtually no mammals living on it for millions of years. It was a place inhabited by birds and reptiles. The only types of mammal were two species of bats. The Kakapo did not learn the defense mechanisms to combat or escape mammalian predators. This made the parrot very vulnerable when new animals started showing up.
The arrival of Polynesian peoples thousands of years ago, of Europeans in the 1800's, and ultimately the pets and livestock they brought with them resulted in the massive decline of Kakapo populations from hundreds of thousands to a mere handful of birds.

mother kakapo feeding a chick
Mother kakapo feeding her chick.

Once common throughout the three main islands of New Zealand, there are now approximately 62 Kakapo left. These remaining birds have been relocated to six predator free island habitats, where the birds are relatively safe and have been breeding!

Yellow Eyed Penguin

Yellow-eyed Penguin
Hoiho - the noisy penguin
The yellow-eyed penguin ( Megadyptes antipodes) is only found in New Zealand is one of the rarest of our penguins. They live and breed around the south-east coast of the South island, on Stewart island and in the sub-antarctic Auckland and Campbell islands. They are known to Maori as Hoiho

Physical characteristics
Standing 65 cm tall and weighing 5 to 6 kg, the yellow-eyed is the fourth largest of the worlds penguins. The distinguishing feature of the yellow-eyed penguin is its distinctive yellow eye and bright yellow stripe that runs through the eye and around the back of the head. Both sexes are alike, although the male does have slightly larger head and feet.
Juvenile yellow-eyeds look very similar to the adults, but lack the yellow head band. They gain their adult plumage at one year of age.

Yellow-eyed penguins are forest or shrubland nesting birds, usually preferring to nest in a secluded site and backed up to a bank, tree or log. Although they nest in loose "colonies", yellow-eyed penguins do not nest within sight of each other.

Nest sites are selected in August and normally two eggs are laid in September. The incubation duties (lasting 39-51 days) are shared by both parents who may spend several days on the nest at a time. For the first six weeks after hatching, the chicks are guarded during the day by one parent while the other is at sea feeding. The foraging adult returns at least daily to feed the chicks and relieve the partner.

After the chicks are six weeks of age, both parents go to sea to supply food to their rapidly growing offspring. Chicks usually fledge in mid February and are totally independent from then on. Chick fledge weights are generally between 5 and 6 kg.
First breeding occurs at 3-4 years of age and long term partnerships are formed. Yellow-eyed penguins may live for up to 24 years.

Diet and feeding
Yellow-eyed penguins feed on a variety of fish including opal fish, silverside, sprat, aruhu and red cod. Arrow squid is also important in their diet. Feeding is usually done near the bottom, at depths of up to 160m and as far as 50km off shore. Dive times are up to 3.5 minutes.
Predators and threats
The loss of coastal forest has played a part in the decline of the yellow-eyed penguin on the NZ mainland, but the biggest threat to the survival of the species is introduced mammalian predators. Wild cats, ferrets and stoats often kill chicks and take eggs. Adult penguins all too often fall victim to dogs.
Variations in the productivity of the marine environment can seriously affect breeding success and adult survival in some "poor" years. Set nets are also a threat, but little information is available about the extent of the problem

Population and conservation status
The population of yellow-eyed penguins is estimated to be around 2,000 breeding pairs and is centred on the sub-antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands, however around 500 pairs breed on New Zealand's South Island and another 150 pairs on and around Stewart Island. Variable marine productivity causes considerable fluctuation in year-to-year numbers of breeding pairs, however the long-term trend is stable. The species is listed by the NZ Dept of Conservation as being "Threatened".


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