Great Spotted Kiwi Apteryx haastii


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable because it is suspected to be in rapid decline, based on probable annual declines (assuming half the population is stable in wet, upland areas) and predation by introduced species.

Population justification
This species is little known, but its population is estimated to number c.15,000 individuals split across three or four isolated populations. This is roughly equivalent to 14,500 mature individuals (H. Robertson in litt., 2016).

Trend justification
Introduced predators are suspected to be causing the species to decline rapidly overall.

Distribution and population

Apteryx haastii has always been confined to the South Island of New Zealand, but its range has contracted and been fragmented significantly since European settlement, and several populations have disappeared. The three main populations are: north-western Nelson to Buller River, Paparoa Range, and Hurunui River to Arthur's Pass (Heather and Robertson 2015). Recent translocations have introduced birds into Lake Rotoiti National park, the Flora Valley in the Arthur Range, and the Nina Valley near Lewis Pass (Heather and Robertson 2015). The species was postulated to be declining at a rate of 5.8% per year like its congener, Brown Kiwi A. australis (McLennan et al. 1996), but more recent monitoring indicates that unmanaged populations, mainly in wet upland areas, are declining at a much slower rate (Robertson et al., 2005), estimated to be about 2% per year (Holzapfel et al., 2008); however, the few small populations that are protected by predator trapping and/or frequent aerial-sowing of 1080 poison are estimated to be increasing by 7% per annum (Holzapfel et al., 2008).


Habitat It lives in forested mountains from sea-level to 1,600 m, but mainly in the upland zone of 700-1,300 m. It uses a wide variety of habitats including tussock grasslands, beech forests, podocarp/hardwood forests, scrub and pasture. Diet It feeds primarily on invertebrates but fallen fruit and leaves are also taken (Heather and Robertson 2015). Breeding A single egg is laid, usually in a burrow (Marchant and Higgins 1990). Incubation is amongst the longest of any bird, between 75-85 days (Calder et al. 1978). Chicks hatch fully-feathered, and first leave the nest unaccompanied after about a week. Young birds can stay with their parents for more than 12 months. It is long-lived, with mean life expectancy of  radio-tagged adults of c.50 years, and so generation time is taken to be 20 years (H. A. Robertson in litt. 2016).


Introduced predators are the greatest threat, in particular, mustelids Mustela spp., brush-tailed possum Trichosurus vulpecula, cats, dogs and pigs. As a result, chick survival is likely to be very low like its congener, Brown Kiwi A. mantelli, with at least 94% of chicks not surviving to maturity, except in very wet upland area, perhaps because here low rodent prey density means predators are scarce (McLennan et al. 1996, Robertson et al. 2005). Apteryx haasti is the only kiwi species that has no secure populations on islands (Robertson 2003, Holzapfel et al. 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Monitoring is intensive and nationally coordinated, and uses call-counts, radio-tracking studies, and 5-yearly territory mapping at a couple of sites (Saxon and North Hurunui) in which specially-trained dogs find banded birds whose territories are mapped from radio-tracking records. Several small populations in the eastern Southern Alps, Paparoa Range, Lake Rotoiti National Park and in the Arthur Range are managed intensively by controlling predators (H. A. Robertson in litt. 1999), and also by removing and incubating eggs and returning the subadults once they are large enough to fend off predators (Holzapfel et al. 2008). The latter approach is known as Operation Nest Egg (ONE) (Colbourne et al. 2005). Landscape-scale aerial 1080 operations of 10,000 - 200,000 ha are likely to be of great benefit to the species, judging by the high numbers of subadult birds found at such sites in the 2-3 years after such operations. Leg-hold traps for predators are routinely raised above the ground in kiwi areas to prevent accidental trapping (H.A. Robertson in litt. (1999). 
Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out large-scale 3-yearly aerial 1080 operations to benefit populations of >200 pairs in NW Nelson, North Westland, Paparoa Range and Southern Alps (H. Robertson in litt. 2016) and potentially create a source for introductions into other areas. Encourage community groups to carry out predator trapping at other sites. Intensively manage at least three (preferably four) populations to secure a minimum of 200 pairs within each managed population (Holzapfel et al. 2008, H. Robertson in litt. 2016). Use ONE in a few accessible sites or where nests are threatened by mining activities. Undertake population modelling to determine regional variation in population dynamics (Holzapfel et al. 2008). Investigate landscape-scale remote monitoring techniques for sparse populations (Holzapfel et al. 2008). Promote legislative and policy changes to protect populations and encourage high-quality advocacy at all levels (Robertson 1998, Holzapfel et al. 2008). Educate and inform the public and encourage community involvement in Kiwi conservation (Robertson 2003, Holzapfel et al. 2008)


45 cm. Largest kiwi, flightless, no visible wings. Light greyish-brown feathers with horizontal white mottling. Long ivory bill. Voice Loud, shrill, warbling whistle (male), slower, lower-pitched, ascending warble (female). Hints Loud calls at night, especially first two hours of darkness.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Mahood, S., Martin, R, McClellan, R., Taylor, J., Stringer, C.

Robertson, H.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Apteryx haastii. Downloaded from on 21/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2021.