Kiwi once had colourful feathers, big wings and soared through the sky.
During a blessing last week for two birds taken from the kiwi-rearing creche on Matakohe/Limestone Island in Whangarei Harbour, Te Parawhau kaumatua Fred Tito explained how the birds lost their wings and developed their unique brown feathers.
After karakia (prayers) to farewell the kiwi pair, which were later released at Whangarei Heads, Mr Tito related the Maori legend about the reason for kiwi living on the ground.
The project manager for Backyard Kiwi, Todd Hamilton, later held one of the kiwi while he explained how it was the only bird in the world without a tail.
He said the big "hairs" around the kiwi's beak were feathers which had evolved into whiskers, and he pointed out the bird's relatively big ears and the nostrils on the end of its beak.
A ceremony was held to bid the birds goodbye because one of them was the 100th kiwi raised on the island, where the Friends of Matakohe/Limestone Island have eradicated predators and planted 150,000 trees.