New Zealand Animal and Bird World Records and Other Trivia

by RhondaAlbom

A collection of interesting New Zealand animal and bird trivia, including a surprising number of world records for a small country.

Formerly a natural bird sanctuary, New Zealand is the last country in the world to be inhabited by humans. A few species of bats are the only indigenous mammals to New Zealand. Other mammals arrived with the people. These include farm animals (cattle, deer, and sheep), domestic animals (dogs and cats) and pest like rats, stout and possum.

This could explain the current ration of animals (95%) to humans (5%) - one of the lowest humans to animal ratios in the world. New Zealand is home to nearly 4.8 million people and over 30 million sheep, 10 million cattle, and nearly 2 million farmed deer.

Don't let the country's small size fool you. New Zealand animals also hold many world records including largest, smallest, heaviest, oldest and a few surprises.

Sheep Out Number People 6 to 1 in New Zealand

Adorable lambs dot the hills in springtime.
Adorable Spring Lambs in an Auckland Park
Adorable Spring Lambs in an Auckland Park

New Zealand Animal World Records

So many world records

New Zealand is also home to several record-breaking and interesting animals.

  • World's Oldest Reptile: Tuatara is the only living relative to the dinosaur, therefore the world's oldest reptile.  Tuatara is endemic to New Zealand.  He looks quite a bit like a large lizard.  See him on the shirt to the right.

  • World's Heaviest Insect: The New Zealand weta is the world's heaviest insect. (and a bit scary looking when you don't expect to see him. 

  • World's Biggest Earthworm: New Zealand is home to the world's biggest earthworms. It does make you wonder who figures this all out. 

  • World's Smallest Bats: Look closely for bats as New Zealand is home to the world's smallest bats.

  • World's Largest Parrot: The Kakapo, a native to New Zealand is the world's largest flightless parrot.

  • World's Smallest Dolphin: Hector's Dolphin, found only in New Zealand is the world's smallest dolphin and one of the world's rarest, and critically endangered.

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New Zealand Penguins

  • Six species of penguins live and breed in New Zealand. 

  • The Little Blue is the world's smallest penguin.  Also called Blue Penguin and Fairy Penguins.

  • The Yellow Eyed Penguins and Fiordland Crested Penguins are both extremely rare and both are endangered.

Yellow Eyed Penguin

Yellow Eyed Penguin
Yellow Eyed Penguin
© Rhonda Albom

New Zealand Kiwi Bird

The flightless Kiwi bird is a New Zealand National icon. Kiwi birds are about the size of a chicken, with a long, thin beak and tiny wings.  They are nocturnal and only found in New Zealand.

  • There are five species of Kiwi birds, all endangered. 

  • The Kiwi lays an egg which in comparison to its body size is the largest of any bird in the world. 

  • The Kiwi bird is the world's only bird with nostrils (sense of smell) at the end of their beak.
  • Kiwi Birds are the smallest of the ratite group of birds which include Emu, Cassowary, Rhea and many extinct species.
  • People who live in New Zealand are nick-named Kiwis. 

A Tuatara T-Shirt

New Zealand Kiwi Hoodie

Critically Endangered Takahe

This one spotted at Zealandia in Welllington New Zealand
Critically endangered Takahe
Critically endangered Takahe

New Zealand Rail Birds

Takahe and Pukeko
  • The New Zealand Takahe are critically endangered.  They were believed to have been extinct, but then were were rediscovered in the Fiordlands in 1948 by Geroffrey Orbell. 
  • Takahe are brighter and more colorful then their closest relative, (and my namesake) the Pukeko.

  • Both Takahe and Pukeko are part of the Rail family (Takahe are the largest of the rail birds).

A few facts about Pukeko:

  • Also called the New Zealand Swamphen.

  • A bird that has continued to flourish, one of the few to continue to do well after the arrival of people to New Zealand.

  • Pukeko live in large groups.

  • Pukeko can run, swin and fly (although not that well) to escape predators.

Which is Your Favorite New Zealand Bird?

Updated: 03/20/2018, RhondaAlbom
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Which Is Your Favorite New Zealand Bird? All Comments Welcome

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Mira on 08/06/2012

Interesting bits of info! I really enjoyed it!:)

Shaz on 03/31/2012

Nice article! You reminded this expat about all the things I love about my home country. Thanks!

happynutritionist on 07/30/2011

The penguin sleeping in the little shelter is so cute. Nice to find you here:-) I'm just getting started.

ohcaroline on 07/25/2011

Very interesting article. I had to vote for the penguins.

sheilamarie on 07/25/2011

I had to choose penguin. Something so adorable about them!

lou16 on 07/22/2011

How can you choose just one favorite NZ bird? The Kiwi is iconic, the penguins are cute and the Pukeko are just quirky!

kajohu on 07/22/2011

I had no idea that New Zealand was the last country populated by humans and other mammals. Very interesting! My favorite bird of New Zealand would be a tie between penguins and kiwis.

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