Why Kiwi?

The Kiwi is a symbol of New Zealand, and New Zealander's refer to themselves as Kiwis. Now in many parts of the world, people would wonder why we would equate ourselves to a small brown furry fruit with bright green contents. Well, for one thing, thats not a Kiwi - thats a Kiwifruit, a term thought up by a marketing type person who didn't think 'Chinese Gooseberry' had too much potential. Of course now they've gone one further and started calling Kiwifruit 'Zespri'!

The original Kiwi is a flightless nocturnal bird found (apart from the odd zoo) only in New Zealand. In fact, the Kiwi is a ratite - like the Cassowary, Emu, Ostrich, and Rhea. Technically an Apteryx (of the family apterygidae), the Kiwi was named by the Maori people for its shrill call (Keeeeewee). In the Maori language 'i' is pronounced like the 'e' in 'key'. As a product of a land a long way from anywhere else, the Kiwi is unusual in many ways. It is small (about 500mm / 1'8 tall) with hairlike brown plumage (the barbs are weak and lack aftershafts giving a 'shaggy' look) and very small wings (which end in a hook). The Kiwi is flightless, and lacks many of the 'flying' adaptions of other birds. The bone structure is curious in that it has marrow rather than airsacks. The feet are large and well developed (about one third of the bird's weight), with four toes (as opposed to 2-3 in most ratites). The bill is long and unique in that the nostrils are at the tip rather than the base. Sensitive bristles radiate from the base of the bill. The Kiwi has a very good sense of smell and the olfactory bulbs in the brain are large and similar in structure to a mammal. Also like a mammal, the eyes are separated by large nasal cavities rather than 'plates'. Being nocturnal in habit, the eyes are of the Kiwi are small, and the vision is poor. The sense of hearing is acute, and the ear openings are large. The Kiwi is a forest dweller, and is omniverous in its diet, consuming insects and vegetation.

Being so unique to New Zealand, the Kiwi has become the national bird, and a symbol of the country. The term Kiwi has been used by New Zealanders to indicate their nationality since the nineteenth century. To identify the Kiwi with aviation may be a bit odd given its flightless status, but since the late 1960's the Kiwi has been used on the roundels of the RNZAF, replacing another symbol of New Zealand, the silver fern (Ponga).

Fern Roundel

1960's style RNZAF Roundel
featuring the Silver Fern.

Current RNZAF Roundel
featuring the Kiwi.

Kiwi Roundel

So it is appropriate to call these pages 'Kiwi Aircraft Images, because in this sense it means New Zealand Aircraft Images.

Aviation Homepage © 1996 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved