Flaming Pyramids: Featured Flora & Fauna
New Zealand natives decorate the tiles of the first and second editions.
Notoriously mischievous, the intelligent Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot, inhabiting the forested mountainous areas of the South Island. Olive-green, it has brilliant orange feathers under its wings. Adult birds can weigh up to 1 kg (2.2 lbs). They will interact with skiers and tourists, investigating and sometimes ransacking their cars, backpacks, and other equipment. Photo by Joshin Yamada
New Zealand's iconic kiwi is a unique and curious bird: it cannot fly and has loose, hair-like feathers; strong legs; no tail; and nostrils at the tip of its long beak. There are five species of kiwi and sadly, all are endangered. In proportion to body size, kiwi eggs are among the largest known.
The Australasian swamphen is found in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. In New Zealand it may have self-introduced about 1000 years ago or been brought by Maori settlers, who gave it the name Pukeko. Often spotted in small groups beside motorways, they have managed to thrive alongside ever-encroaching human development and predators. Photo by Sid Mosdell
The kākāpō is a parrot with many distinctions: it is the world's heaviest parrot and the only living flightless parrot. Ground-dwelling and nocturnal, it feeds on a few dozen different plants over the year, with the fruit of the rimu tree being a favourite. Before humans arrived in Aotearoa, it was the third most common bird; its modern population has been as low as 49 individuals. There are now about 200 kākāpō living on two predator-free islands under the protection of the Kākāpō Recovery Programme.
The bold Fantail or piwakawaka is loved for its distinctive tail, loud song, and characteristic flitting movements. They can be seen in backyards and urban gardens as well as deeper in the bush. Insects and spiders form the bulk of their diet and they are able to eat on the fly. Other fantail species can be found throughout Australasia and on the Indian subcontinent. Photo by Rosa Stewart
Immediately identifiable by the white ring around its eye, the diminutive Waxeye is also known as the Silvereye. Similar-looking closely related birds are found throughout Australasia, and in fact, it is believed the waxeye self-introduced to New Zealand in the 1830s. This is reinforced by its Māori name, tauhou, which means ‘new arrival’. It is protected as a native species and enjoys a diet of insects, nectar, and fruit. Photo by JJ Harrison, Creative Commons
Waxeye / Tauhou
The only mushroom to feature on a banknote anywhere–the NZ $50 bill–the Werewere-Kōkako mushroom is of interest to scientists as a blue food colouring. In a legend of the Tuhoe tribe, the kokako got its blue wattles from rubbing its cheeks against the mushroom and on the $50 bill, this bird accompanies the mushroom. Photo by Bernard Spragg
The Puriri Moth is New Zealand’s largest moth, the female having a wingspan of 150 mm (6″) and the smaller male, 100 mm (4″). The moth is only found in the North Island but is able to take advantage of native, naturalised, and cultivated trees for feeding and as sites of burrows for pupating caterpillars. In fact, it spends its first five to six years in the caterpillar stage and only a few days as an adult.
New Zealand is home to Powelliphanta, a genus of land snails that first evolved over 235 million years ago. The largest grow to be 9 cm across. Unable to seal off their shells with mucous, they require a moist environment so they bury themselves under logs and leaves and come out at night to feed on worms. They can live to be 20 years old, only reaching sexual maturity at age 5 or 6 and are vulnerable to introduced mammals. Photo by Jess Reedy