Ongoing support to prevent extinction
The brown kiwi is one of our most common kiwi species; however, the population is steadly declining by about 2–3% a year. Without ongoing support, experts estimate brown kiwi will be extinct in the wild within two generations.
For many New Zealanders, brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) is the species we think of when kiwi are talked about. It is the species that lives closest to human habitation, familiar to many communities in Northland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, East Coast/Hawkes Bay and parts of Taranaki. It is also the main species on display in captivity.
This proximity of people to kiwi has created its own risks to birds through increased contact with dogs, cats and cars. However, it has also been a great advantage to the recovery of the species - hours and hours of effort from community initiatives in restoration benefit brown kiwi populations in many locations.
All brown kiwi live in the North Island. Four geographically and genetically distinct forms have been identified:
- Northland brown kiwi
- Coromandel brown kiwi
- Western brown kiwi
- Eastern brown kiwi.
The brown kiwi is faster at breeding than other kiwi, producing up to two eggs a clutch, and one to two clutches a year, as opposed to the more usual one egg per year in other kiwi species. However, much of that good reproductive work is undone by the ravages of dogs, stoats, and loss of habitat.
Northland brown kiwi
Northland brown kiwi once lived all over Northland. By the 1980s kiwi were locally extinct in many areas. This was largely caused by predation from introduced mammals. In 1996, it was estimated that North Island kiwi had probably declined by at least 90% during the previous century.
Northland brown kiwi are currently spread between a translocated population at Tawharanui in the south, to Whakaangi in the north. They also on offshore islands from the Bay of Islands to the Hauraki Gulf.
Map of estimated distribution of Northland brown kiwi 2014 (PDF, 313K)
In 2008, their population was calculated at around 8,000 birds, living in 25 broad clusters.
Northland brown kiwi live in some surprising places. They prefer damp gullies in native forest and dense shrubland, but are also found in plantation forest, rough pasture, around wetlands, and in shrubland with lots of gorse or blackberry.
The birds generally have multiple daytime shelters including burrows, fallen nīkau fronds, hollow logs, tight vegetation and slash from land-clearing or forest harvest. They will also roost on the edge of roads or bush. They can be found running around roads at night, and through properties. One of these could be your property, or your neighbour's.
Adults are territorial and will stay in an area as long as the habitat is suitable. Their territory will usually overlap with that of their mate. Territories are maintained through calling, although fights ensue if enforcement is needed! Territory location is important for kiwi as they lose condition without ready access to water.
Northland brown kiwi can travel widely. A Northland brown kiwi named Noodle travelled 4 km to set up a territory.
Conservation of Northland brown kiwi
Other kiwi live to be 40–65 years old, but the Northland brown kiwi averages only 14 years.
Kiwi monitoring methods
DOC has a formal kiwi call monitoring programme, run as part of Kiwis for kiwi. Call-count monitoring occurs each May–June in Northland.
In some locations, use of ground-based toxin offers the best success in kiwi chick survival.
Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary undertakes pulsed operation of 1080 in bait stations in main kiwi populations. The toxin pulses may help to counteract the influence of trap-shy stoats which could be selected for through years of consistent trapping.
Education and advocacy
DOC, often with others, is involved in a range of education work including kiwi aversion training for dogs, attending events, discussions with community groups and landowners, sessions with schools, media coverage and arranging field trips for people to meet Northland brown kiwi.
This work includes providing advice on ideas such as the safe forest harvesting regime and advocating for kiwi protection in resource management planning processes. Agreeing on cat and dog-free housing and subdivisions is a good example.
DOC staff often liaise with those in councils and other people involved in kiwi management such as dog control rangers.
Other Northland brown kiwi work
- Monitoring at Trounson Kauri Park has lead to greater understanding of threats to kiwi, the impacts of introduced predators, and testing effective management regimes.
- Call count monitoring and dog surveys suggest kiwi numbers in Waipoua Forest, once considered home to one of the North Island’s largest kiwi populations, have declined hugely. This is most likely due to predation of kiwi of all ages.
- A kiwi-safe harvesting regime has been established in a number of forests including the Waitangi Endowment Forest. This involves finding kiwi and attaching radio transmitters before logging begins, then checking the radio signals on each day of the harvest. Kiwi within areas to be logged are relocated nearby.
Who we work with
Brown kiwi is at risk from predator plagues caused by high levels of seed production ('beech mast').
Battle for our Birds protects brown kiwi and other native species from predators.
You can help
If you see dogs wandering in any part of Northland, catch the dog if it is possible and safe to do so, and/or call either of the following numbers immediately:
- Environmental Northland (ENL – covers the Whangarei district and Kaipara district councils): +64 9 438 7513
- Far North District Council: 0800 920 029 or +64 9 405 2750
Or check in with your nearest Department of Conservation office or kiwi care community group.
There are many other ways you can help kiwi.
For more information about Northland brown kiwi contact