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Are you familiar with the lesser known bald kiwi? Probably not – we’re pretty thin on the ground...
For the past 30 years, this specimen at Auckland Museum has sat on shelf 3, in cabinet H, in the Land Vertebrates Store. There is no record of how or why it lost its feathers. The Curator of Land Vertebrates, Dr Brian Gill, maintains that they were eaten by insects; chomped by clothes moths when the kiwi spent time out in country schools, on display for children living too far away to visit the Museum in Auckland.
However, if you look around a bit, you might notice a few objects heavily decorated with kiwi feathers. A Victorian muff, for example, with its ceramic hot water bottle to keep your hands warm. Or the beautiful muka kete, used on special occasions. One might begin to think they both seem to have the exact same number of kiwi feathers that are missing from our bald kiwi’s puckered body!
Nevertheless, Dr Gill is a glass half-full type and he points out that, in its nude state, our kiwi’s vestigial wings are revealed. You can see how small they are, and imagine how much larger they would have been when the kiwi could still fly.