New Zealand Wildlife: Critters & Creatures

From the kiwi bird to Dusky dolpins, discover the unique and wonderful wildlife of New Zealand!

G’day!  You’ve heard all about the unique and fascinating wildlife of Australia, but what about New Zealand?  From the fascinating kiwi bird and the world’s smallest penguins to swimming with dusky dolphins and the massive amount of sheep, discover a variety of critters who call this island country home.

The Kiwi Bird
The kiwi bird is an all around amazing creature.  Most birds don't have a great sense of smell, but the kiwi has highly developed olfactory senses, and nostrils at the end of their beaks.  Their feathers have also evolved to suit their ground-based lifestyles (these little guys cannot fly) and are more hair-like than feather-like.  Mama kiwis are quite the tough birds.  Kiwi eggs take up to 20% of their body (for a little perspective, a human baby only takes up about 5%).  Way to go mama bird!  Kiwi birds are also among the few species that mate for life, with relationships lasting over 20 years!

New Zealand Sheep
In New Zealand, there are about 10 sheep to every person, that's a lot of sheep! That's also a lot of congested country roads.  Here are some quick sheep facts:

New Zealand's first sheep were set ashore by Captain Cook in 1773.

  • Sheep have a field vision of around 300 degrees, which means they can see behind themselves without having to turn their head!
  • Sheep are raised for four main products- lamb, mutton, wool (who doesn't love New Zealand Merino wool?), and sheep's milk.
  • Rapid sheep population growth in the 1850s & 1860's was due mainly to permanent immigration, rather than a natural increase.
  • The first shipment of frozen lamb & mutton sailed to London from Port Chalmers on The Dunedin in 1882.

Yellow-eyed Penguin
Yellow-eyed Penguins are some of the largest species of penguins, adults reaching 75cm in height (that’s roughly 2.5 feet tall!) and can be found on the coasts of New Zealand. They’re also endangered due to habitat degradation, food shortages, and predators like cats and ferrets. Most penguins’ voices are not that musical, however, the Yellow-eyed Penguin is actually quite musical. Listen here and learn more.

Quick Yellow-eyed Penguin Facts:

  • Yellow-eyed penguins lay two eggs & parents typically raise both chicks.
  • As their name implies, Yellow-eyed penguins have pale yellow eyes and their head is also a pale yellow, with a bright yellow strip extending from their eyes around the back of their head.
  • Yellow-eyed penguins usually nest in forests and scrub that line the New Zealand coast.
  • The Yellow-eyed penguin is now the rarest penguin in the world due to deforestation and predators.

Dusky Dolphin
These little dolphins are called Dusky Dolphins. They’re super acrobatic and can be seen leaping out of the water and tumbling in the air. They’re very social and super fast swimmers. Clicks, squeaks and whistles can be heard almost 2 miles away when they communicate out of the water.

Southern Royal Albatross
Did you know that albatross spend most of their life at sea, sometimes flying up to an estimated 118,060 miles per year? They have a huge wingspan, some reaching up to 3.3 meters across (that’s roughly 10 ten feet!). The only time spent on land is when they return to breed and raise their young. Albatross are also one of the few species that mate for life.

Little Blue Penguins
Little Blue Penguins are the smallest penguins in the world, 13.7 – 16.9 inches tall! They usually nest in burrows, rock crevices, caves, or even under buildings. They only come ashore at dusk, so make sure you get in on a little penguin tour!

Quick Little Penguin Facts:

  • Blue penguins weigh between 1 and 1.5kg (that’s 2-2.5 lbs)
  • Their average lifespan is 6.5 years, but there are some records of penguins living up to 20!
  • Little penguins are often in long-term relationships, but ‘divorce’ is not uncommon.
  • Chicks will often times return to within a few miles of where they were raised, and once they settle in that area they never move away

These are just some of the amazing critters and creatures that call New Zealand home.  Discover even more with an adventure & wildlife New Zealand vacation.  Give Down Under Endeavours a call today, 888-229-0082.  Looking for a little more inspiration? Check out more of our handcrafted New Zealand vacations, click here.

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