Brown Kiwi (Apteryx australis)


Class: Aves
Order: Apterygiformes
Family:    Apterygidae
Size:    Length: 20 to 30 inches (51 to 76 cm)   Height: 14 inches (36 cm)
Weight: 3 to 9 pounds (1.3 to 4 kg)
Diet: Seeds, insects, worms, berries and fruit
Distribution: New Zealand
Young:  1 to 2 chicks, once or twice a year
Animal Predators:  Dogs, cats, rats, stoats, weasels and bushy-tailed possums
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Up to 30 years



·     The kiwi is New Zealand’s national emblem—New Zealanders like to refer to themselves as “Kiwis.”

·     Kiwis are vanishing from New Zealand at a rate of 5.8 percent every year.

·     The male is approximately 30 percent smaller than the female.

·     Kiwis are featured in the coat of arms, crests and badges of many New Zealand cities, clubs and organizations.

·     The kiwi symbol became internationally recognized in 1906 when Kiwi Shoe Polish was introduced.



Like their close relatives, ostriches and emus, brown kiwis are flightless with thick, strong legs. Their greyish-brown feathers are long and shaggy and look more like fur than feathers. Their wings are small and are not visible from underneath their plumage. Unlike other birds, kiwis have poor eyesight, but have an excellent sense of smell. Kiwis are the only birds in the world that have nostrils at the tip of their beak as well as bristles that help them feel their way in the dark. 



Kiwis live exclusively in New Zealand, in forested areas. Much of the forest where they once lived has been cleared away to make room for human settlement. Kiwis are extremely loyal animals that form lifelong bonds with their mates and become extremely attached to their home territories, remaining there for weeks even after every tree has been cut down. They dig several burrows within a territorial range from five to 50 hectares. They may also dwell in hollow logs during the day.


Feeding Habits

Their long sharp claws enable them to dig up food such as seeds, insects and worms from underneath the dirt, as well as help to protect them against predators. Brown kiwis also eat berries and fruit. 



Brown kiwis are monogamous and mate for life. They live together within the same burrow and the female lays one or two one-pound (0.45 kg) eggs within the burrow in late winter to summer. The second egg may be laid up to one month after the first. Although kiwis are the same size as chickens, their eggs are almost as large as ostrich eggs. Once laid, the egg is incubated by the male for about 80 days. Kiwi chicks use their strong legs to kick their way out of the shell. Each chick is born fully feathered with its eyes open, and survives on a large reserve of yolk in its belly for the first seven to 10 days. The father then begins to take the chick out of the burrow to learn to forage. Chicks reach adult size when they are 18 to 20 months, but because kiwi families form close bonds, a chick may stay with its parents for seven years or more.



Few New Zealanders have seen a brown kiwi in the wild, because kiwis usually come out only at night and spend the day sleeping in a burrow. At night, they can see up to six feet (1.8 m) ahead, but only two feet (61 cm) ahead in the daylight. 



At one time, brown kiwis had no predators. When people arrived in New Zealand over a thousand years ago, they brought with them cats, dogs, rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets, bushy-tailed possums and other animals that proved to be enemies to the kiwis. The Kiwi Recovery Programme was formed in 1991 in New Zealand. This program includes protecting kiwi nests in the wild, controlling predators and raising kiwi chicks in captivity so that they may be released when they are capable of defending themselves. 



Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited

Brown Kiwi Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US