Wednesday, November 07, 2012

KIWI The real story By Annemarie Florian and Heather Hunt

Set in the dark of the night-world, this very special illustrated children’s book describes the nocturnal habits of the mysterious kiwi, inspired by the successful conservation project ‘Backyard Kiwi’.

Writer Annemarie Florian and designer and illustrator Heather Hunt tell the story of Kiwi behaviour in Kiwi: the real story; their narrative is laid on top of a dark but vibrant night-time backdrop in which the north island brown kiwi comes alive.

Creating a uniquely illustrated, enormoulsy appealing book to be treasured by children and adults alike ( I love it), the authors have layered poetry and non-fiction narrative over illustrations to create a book that will bring pleasure to any inquisitive young person wanting to understand more about this well-known but little-seen bird. ‘This is a story about real kiwi in a real place, the story of a dogged survivor, a bird who deserves our respect for its sheer resolve to survive and live its own life in the face of overwhelming odds,’ says Annemarie as she talks about bringing the feathered characters to life in Kiwi: the real story.

Showing children this elusive flightless bird through the facts and fun design in Kiwi: the real story reflects the motivations of the Backyard Kiwi project, supported by Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum. From weed control and trapping possums and stoats, right through to community awareness on how to manage cats and dogs, avoiding the birds while driving at night and being able to identify kiwi calls, the Backyard Kiwi scheme supports locals to create an environment where kiwi can thrive, encouraging families to make changes in their own backyard.

And while kiwi numbers are rapidly diminishing around the country, there is a phenomenon up in Whangarei Heads as a result of this combined initiative and the efforts of dedicated locals. Before this project started, DOC’s kiwi programme in the Bream Head was unable to protect the kiwi when they roamed onto private land. Since the project started in the Whangarei Heads Peninsular, numbers have now risen to over 400 kiwi compared to the 80 in 2001, making this unique scheme a litmus test for what could be scaled-out countrywide.

The illustrated ambassador for Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum was originally created by Heather to strike a chord with people in the area – the quirky design is used to personify the bird for road signs and billboards. Together Heather and Annemarie bring kiwi to life in Kiwi: the real story with the same illustrated characters. Heather’s illustrations were inspired by the local birds in her area: she recounts hearing kiwi calls cutting through the night air as the family relaxed in their outdoor spa – three or four would call from the hill on the flower farm.

These feisty birds have a life and spirit of their own and Kiwi: the real story will be the book to inspire your children to love and protect kiwi long into their lifetimes, ensuring that they will still be in the ‘backyards’ of our grandchildren in years to come.

‘Kiwi are amazing creatures. A kiwi is a bird trying to be a mammal: they’re the only bird with no tail; tiny useless wings; marrow-filled bones; large ears; long whiskers; nostrils in the wrong place; and the girls, unlike any other bird, have two functioning ovaries.’ Todd Hamilton, Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum Project Manager

About the Author and illustrator
Annemarie Florian is an independent bookseller at Storytime in Whangarei ( An academic librarian in a previous life, she has convened the Russell Clark Award and was a judge for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2012. Other publications include Time to Sleep and Books for Babies, also a collaboration with Heather.

Heather Hunt ( is an illustrator, graphic designer, artist and photographer. She recently worked with Backyard Kiwi, a local Whangarei initiative, to design a distinctive and unique kiwi character, which has now been portrayed in a range of art prints.

The Backyard Kiwi project is a community awareness conservation project, one of many carried out by the Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum. Backyard Kiwi celebrates the partnership between kiwi and people in the Whangarei Heads. For more information go to
Todd Hamilton (WHLF Project Manager) liaises with locals to carry out stoat and feral cat control – a network of 300 predator traps has meant a huge increase in kiwi chick survival.

Published by New Holland
Publication date: October 2012
Price: $29.99
Format: 250 x 250 mm; 32 pages, Hardback
Age range: 4 – adult

Kiwis have existed in New Zealand for about 30 million years.

• Extensive Kiwi populations once roamed over all of New Zealand but loss of habitat and the spread of predators has seen this picture change dramatically.

• The decline has been the most rapid in the last 30 years and today the number of Kiwi in unmanaged areas is halving every 10 years. If this rate continues Kiwi will be extinct on the mainland in our lifetime.

• Of the six different varieties of kiwi in New Zealand five are considered endangered or critically endangered.

• Without the trapping of stoats by Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum, scientific research had shown that
over 90% of kiwi chicks were killed by stoats.

• Kiwi are flightless birds.

• Most are nocturnal – they come out after the sun goes down to feed on underground insects that come closer to the soil’s surface at night. You can hear kiwi at night, especially during the autumn and early winter, in the Whangarei Heads.

• Kiwi habits and physical characteristics are very much like those of a mammal. Its body temperature is 38
degrees Celcius – most birds have a body temperature of 40 degrees. Kiwi have feathers that are more like
hair, and they have whiskers, and ears.

• Kiwi are the only bird with external nostrils at the end of their beak – a lot like your nose.

• Dogs find the smell of kiwi to be almost irresistible. From poodles to farm dogs – they love the strong distinctive scent and find it easy to track – day and night.

• Kiwi are very territorial, especially the males. Yet kiwi are mostly monogamous – they pair for up to 50 years.

• Female kiwi are bigger than male kiwi.

• Kiwi are omnivores.

• Kiwi live in many habitats – including your backyard. They like native forest, pine plantations, pampas grass, paddocks – you never know where you might find one.

*Facts from

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