Strewth, justice and the unique Kiwi way

Last updated 12:00 21/12/2013

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There's been a bit of a flap about the origins of the kiwi, but really, it's no cause to get ruffled.

Research this week has given more weight to what scientists have long suspected - our flightless national bird was not always a ground-dweller and probably flew here from a distant shore we now know as Australia.

Strewth! You've got to be joking mate.

But there are many reasons not to be concerned at this quirk of ancient history.

If you go back far enough, we all came from somewhere else - humans probably from a valley somewhere in Africa; animals and birds from ancient land masses that broke up over tens of millions of years.

The new research shows that the kiwi's ancestor may have flown or been blown across the ditch more than 20 million years ago.

It was a tiny thing, about a third of the size of a small, modern-day kiwi, and probably related to that most Ocker of birds, the emu.

Some commentators have thrown out a warning shot to our Antipodean cousins to keep their thieving hands off our national symbol. Evidence of Aussie ill-intent is provided by a list of previous mistaken claims, from Phar Lap, to pavlova and Russell Crowe (in his earlier career).

But behind this straw man lurks a potentially greater insult - a complete lack of interest in claiming our drably coloured, mostly nocturnal forest dweller.

Befitting the Australian national character, their national animal and bird emblems - kangaroos and emus - are distinctive, big and bold.

Kiwis are no less distinctive, but suit our more reserved national identity. Unassuming at first glance, they have some surprising attributes. Their eggs are the biggest in proportion to their size of any bird.

It's not a bad metaphor for an ability to make more of an impact than our size would suggest. And let's not forget that wherever the pre-kiwis blew in from, they thrived in this green, plentiful and peaceable land and turned into something unique.

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