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17 New Zealand Animals You Haven't Seen Before (PHOTOS)

White Kiwi Bird New Zealand

Some New Zealand animals on this list are now extinct but have famous roots in our history.

A few of the animals are not endemic to New Zealand but are often found here and rarely elsewhere.

Like the Colossal & Giant Squid (worldwide), Morepork Owl (also in Australia)

Prior to man's arrival, New Zealand was a sanctuary of Giant birds and insects. 

6 New Zealand Animal World Records

  • The World's tallest bird the Moa at 3.2m (10.49ft) tall.
  • The World's heaviest parrot at 4.4 - 8.8 lbs.
  • The World's biggest Eagle with 75mm (2.95 inches) talons the size of Tiger claws.
  • The World's heaviest insect the Giant Weta.
  • The World's oldest Reptiles the 200 Million-Year-Old Tuatara.
  • The World's biggest earthworms up to 1.4m (4.59ft) long.

You get the picture.

The last inhabited place on earth was full of giant, tiny, and some truly unique prehistoric animals.

Let us take a look at 17 unique animals New Zealand has to offer.

1. The Rare White Kiwi

via GIPHY Manukura the only known white kiwi in New Zealand.

Manukura is a rare white kiwi bird - she was the only known white kiwi in the world!

She was born on May 1st, 2011 at the Pukaha National Wildlife Centre in the North Island of New Zealand.

She is not an albino with her beautiful white feathers, but, instead a pure white, making her a very rare progeny of 2 parents carrying a specific white feather gene.

Since Manukura there have been more white chicks found in the reserve but sadly died before reaching a month old by predation from animals such as wild cats, stoats, or ferrets.

Kiwis are on the brink of extinction without our help.

In 1998 there was around 100,000 kiwi left and in 2015 they were estimated to have declined to around 70,000.

Around 1,400 die each year from introduced wild predators and sadly its believed 95% die before reaching the breeding age of 3-5 years old.

With their late reproduction cycle and rapid decline, it is hard for conservationists to keep the Kiwi alive.

There is an extensive Nationwide effort to protect our defenseless and flightless birds from introduced predators.

2. The South Island Giant Moa - World's Tallest Bird (EXTINCT)

Moa Bird New Zealand Animals

Moa reenactment with Maori warriors to show their true size comparison.  

Moa were the biggest land animals in New Zealand when people first arrived in the 13th century.

They are superlative birds, and the South Island Giant Moa was the biggest of them all.

Females were quite a lot bigger than the males standing at 2m (6.56ft) tall and around 250kg (551lbs) with males only standing around 1.4m (4.59ft) tall and 90kgs (198lbs).

Adult females were able to reach foliage at heights of 3.6m (11.8ft) making them the tallest bird species known.

All nine types of Moa showed a unique trait among birds with no trace of any wing bones.

They were the prey of the Giant Haast Eagle the World's biggest eagle which roamed New Zealand at the same time.

Sadly, both the Moa and Haast eagle were extinct within a few centuries of human arrival around 600 years ago.

Imagine going for a walk in the forest to come across these behemoths looking down on you through the bush.

I am sure watching the Moa clambering their way to full power and speed would have been a loud and powerful experience. 

3. The Haast Eagle - The World's Biggest Eagle (EXTINCT)

Giant Haast Eagle (New Zealand Animals)

IMAGE © COLIN EDGERLEY Illustration of a Haast Eagle Hunting a Moa. With a Maori hunter in the foreground with a NZ Wood Pigeon.

New Zealand was home to both the largest and heaviest eagle that's ever been found.

Weighing a terrifying 17.8kgs (39.2lbs) with a wingspan of up to 3m (9.8ft) and standing around 90cm (35.43 inches) tall.

They roamed New Zealand as the largest predator among the giant prehistoric fauna.

Near-complete skeletons show they had wings the size of giant eagles, legs and bills stronger than any living vulture, and feet and talons the size of tigers.

Their rear talon measured up to 75mm (2.95 inches) in length and was used to grab and crush their prey.

This eagle specialised in the largest prey available being able to take down an adult South Island Giant Moa (up to 3.6m (11.8ft) and 249kg (551lbs)

The Haast eagle became extinct 500-600 years ago, around the same time that New Zealand's Moa species became extinct after the arrival of man.

4. The Giant Parrot (EXTINCT)

Giant New Zealand Parrot

Artists recreation of the Giant NZ parrot Heracles against an 8cm Wren. Image credits: Brian Choo Flinders University.

A parrot that stood around 3ft tall and weighed 15 pounds.

This newly discovered extinct parrot, dubbed Heracles inexpectatus, crushes the current living record of kakapo (4.4-8.8lbs).

Little is known about this new species as only 2 leg bone fragments were found.

If the giant parrot was anything like the rest of the New Zealand parrots they would have been one loud and squawky bird.

5. The NZ Giant Centipede

Image of the Giant Centipede from New Zealand 


This creepy-crawly can grow up to 25cm (9.8 inches) long.

They are fast movers and have a painful venomous bite.

Another example of gigantism  – a feature of many New Zealand native species.

Without any mammals, large flightless invertebrates (such as wētā and centipedes) occupied the niche which in other landmasses small mammals (such as rats, and mice) exploited.

6. The Tuatara - World's Oldest Reptile

Ancient Tuatara Lizard of New Zealand

The Tuatara of New Zealand is a living dinosaur.

Like Yoda of the Animal Kingdom at over 200 million years old.

These guys have seen a fair share. 

The word Tuatara in Māori means 'Spiny Back'.

Since 1985 they have been fully protected.

They may look like a lizard but they are not.

Tuatara is a sole survivor of a lineage of reptiles as old as the first dinosaurs over 200 million years ago.

Living a very long life span of over 100 years old.

They come with some interesting prehistoric traits and adaptations including the third eye and being able to remain active in near-freezing temperatures.

7. The Southern Royal Albatross

New Zealand Royal Albatross

The Southern Royal Albatross ('toroa' in Māori) is one of the giant great albatross species.

With wingspans of 3m+ (9.8ft) and weighing around 9kgs (19.8lbs) they are one of the biggest birds flying the oceans.

They also have a long lifespan reaching up to 40 years.

The Royal Albatross is endemic to New Zealand, and the majority of the breeding population can be found on the subantarctic Campbell Island, with a smaller population on the Auckland Islands. 

8. Giant Wētā Bug - World's Heaviest Insect

Giant Weta Bug From New Zealand

Photo: Mark Moffett ( American scientist feeding a carrot to the heaviest ever recorded giant weta on New Zealand’s Little Barrier Island.)

Video of Weta Returning From The Dead Frozen In Ice.


There are 11 species of giant NZ wētā.

These remarkable giants have one of the most incredible adaptations in the animal kingdom.

The wētā have developed special proteins that do not let ice crystals form in their cells protecting them from freezing in ice.

So essentially they have a special power allowing them to be completely frozen almost indefinitely and then defrosted and thawed-out almost automatically reanimated back to life.

Watch the video above to see this remarkable adaptation of survival in action.

The largest species can be up to 10cm (4 inches) in body length excluding the antennae and legs.

Usually weighing around no more than 35g (1.2 oz) one female in captivity reached a weight of 70g (2.47 oz) making it the heaviest insect in the world.

The largest and heaviest species of the giant wētā is the Little Barrier Island Giant Weta with one specimen in 2011 reported at 71g (2.5 oz).

9. Giant & Colossal Squid (Architeuthis dux/Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)

The Giant Squid is not endemic to New Zealand however, the South Island of New Zealand seems to be a Giant Squid hotspot.

Numerous giant squid ranging in sizes have been caught and washed ashore. Ranging in size from 4m - 5.2m long.

Images of the Colossal Squid on display at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, below.

Colossal Squid Found In New Zealand

Colossal Squid Beak Size

EMPTY007/FLICKR (CREATIVE COMMONS) Colossal Squid Display, Te Papa Museum, Wellington. Specimen caught by the San Aspiring. 

In 2007 the San Aspiring caught a Colossal Squid with 10-inch eyes (largest in the world) the size of soccer balls, razor-sharp beaks, and teeth/hook covered tentacles.

It is believed the Colossal Squid is the biggest and heaviest squid species in the World, even bigger than the Giant Squid.


4.2m (13.7ft) Giant Squid washed up on the beach of the South Coast of Wellington.

Kaikoura 2003 7m (23ft)

Kaikoura Giant Squid New Zealand

A giant squid found at South Bay, in Kaikoura.

With a 19cm (7.48 inch) diameter eye and 2m (6.56ft) long body, you wouldn't want to tassle with this beast of the deep.

The longest tentacle was 5m (16.4ft) in length.


Kaikoura Giant Squid New Zealand


10. The Giant Carnivorous Powelliphanta Snail

Giant Carnivorous Snail From New Zealand

Giant Carnivorous Powelliphanta Snail from New Zealand Source: Department of Conservation Photo: Kath Walker


Like something out of a horror movie this giant NZ snail is packed with 6000 teeth, has disgusting table manners and grows to the size of a man's fist.

Be warned you will never look at snails the same.

Get a rare up-close view of one of these carnivorous snails sneaking up on a worm.

Within a matter of seconds, the snail goes from being a placid looking slow slug to a 'ferocious predator' as it suffocates an earthworm folding it in half and eating it like spaghetti.

11. The Fantail (Pīwakawaka)

Fantail Bird of New Zealand

FANTAIL IMAGE © Dennis Knight

The Fantail is one of the most common native birds you will see when walking around the native bush.

They almost seemingly dance through the air when they fly.

Known as dart flyers their fanned tail allows them to easily change direction quickly.

Many people talk about how fantails are friendly, curious (often flying around you), and even how they sometimes accompany you on walks.

12. The Kea - Most Intelligent Parrot In The World


The Kea is one of the funniest, brave, and most intelligent birds in the world.

These character packed gorgeous parrots are found in the forested Alpine areas in the South Island of New Zealand.

Travelers are often warned about the rubber on their car, especially around the windows and front wiper blades being torn to shreds by these guys.

You can't leave anything unattended, they're brave and not afraid and will walk right past you to nab your lunch.

Often getting amongst it with everyone, these little guys are awesome to see being their cheeky selves.

13. Māui Dolphin - The World's Smallest Dolphin

Maui's Dolphin New Zealand

MAUI DOLPHIN IMAGE © WWF New Zealand/Facebook

Looking like a mini orca whale but in fact, these are the Māui dolphins the world's smallest dolphins found only in New Zealand.

With only an estimated 63 individuals left these gorgeous dolphins are extremely endangered and on the brink of extinction. They plummeted in numbers from 1500 in the 1970s due to setnets been widely introduced into the New Zealand waters.

They can grow up to around 1.5m long and weigh up to 50kgs.

Found exclusively on the West Coast in the North Island of New Zealand.

14. World's Biggest Earthworm (Spenceriella Gigantea)

Giant Earthworm from New Zealand

Ti Point Reptile Park worker with a giant NZ earthworm that was found after heavy rainfall. 

New Zealand is home to giant earthworms that glow in the dark and can grow up to 1.4m long and over 1cm thick. 

Very rarely seen as they prefer to live a couple of meters below ground in their tunnels.

But every now again when there is heavy rainfall this colossal worm escapes to high ground to avoid drowning.

The 'glow in the dark' trait is from bioluminescence and it is said that they are so bright you could read a book sitting next to one. 

15. The Moorepork (Ruru)


New Zealand's last surviving native owl.

You might be wondering what a weird name where did that come from?

Well just listen to the video above to hear these sweet little owls call their own name.

They are called Ruru in Māori, the indigenous language of New Zealand.

16. The Huhu Grub

The Huhu Grub is the baby larvae of New Zealand's biggest beetle the Huhu Beetle (Prionoplus reticularis). 

They are often eaten as a bush delicacy by frying or BBQing over a campfire.

Huhu Grubs are known to taste like buttery chicken with the texture of peanut butter.

Huhu Grub New Zealand


New Zealand Huhu Beetle

Image of a Huhu Larvae About to Be Eaten © Thomas Sibley

Timon Eat GIF - Timon Eat Disney GIFs


17. Pāua Sea Snail

Pāua Abalone New Zealand

New Zealand Pāua also know as (abalone) in other countries is unique to New Zealand. 

The shells are brilliantly colorful and often used in jewelry.

They have an oval-shaped shell with a large muscular foot that is used to cling to the rock surface.

Surprisingly they have eyes, tentacles, mouth, and gills which they breathe through.

Bonus: Bruce The Rugby Playing Sheep

It's not only the people of New Zealand that love Rugby but also our funny furry friends!

Meet Bruce the rugby playing sheep from New Zealand.


New Zealand animals are exotic, weird, and unique in so many ways. New Zealand had no land mammal predators prior to man's arrival allowing insects, birds, and other creatures to become gigantic.

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