email a friend
printable version
Okarito Kiwi Apteryx rowi
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information
BirdLife Species Champion Become a BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme Supporter
For information about BirdLife Species Champions and Species Guardians visit the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

This newly-split kiwi is increasing in number following intensive conservation management. However, the total population still remains very small and it is therefore classified as Endangered. If the population continues to increase it may be eligible for downlisting in the future.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Apteryx australis, A. mantelli and A. rowi (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously treated as A. australis and A. mantelli (incorporating rowi) following Baker et al. (1995); prior to that all three taxa were lumped as A. australis following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).

40 cm. Medium-sized kiwi, flightless, no visible wings. Dark greyish-brown feathers streaked lengthways with reddish-brown. Long ivory bill. Similar spp. Okarito birds distinguished from Tokoeka A. australis by slightly greyer plumage, occasional white facial whiskers. Voice Shrill, clear ascending then descending whistle (male), lower-pitched, hoarse cry (female). Note duration and inter-note interval increase during a calling bout, and there is evidence that the species may duet (Corfield et al. 2008). Hints Loud calls at night, especially first two hours of darkness. 

Distribution and population
Apteryx rowi is locally common in native lowland forests in a small area of coastal forest inland from Okarito, on the west coast of South Island, New Zealand (Robertson 2013). They have recently been introduced to Mana, Motuara and Blumine Islands, in the Cook Strait region. Before human settlement of New Zealand the species was widespread throughout the northern South Island and into the southern North Island, as far north as Lake Poukawa (Hawkes Bay) (Robertson 2013). The population numbered c.375 in 2012, with the only breeding population at Okarito; island populations are used as creches or are only recently established (Robertson 2013).

Population justification
Colbourne et al. (2005) reported that the population was at a minimum of c.160 individuals in 1995 and had increased to c.200 by 2000. It was estimated to have increased further to 300 individuals by 2008 and 375 in 2012 (Robertson 2013). The number of mature individuals is therefore estimated to lie within the band 200-249.

Trend justification
The population has risen rapidly from c.160 birds in 1995 to 375 in 2012 following intensive captive rearing of eggs and chicks to avoid predation by invasive stoats (Robertson 2013).

The native population is now restricted to 10,000 ha of coastal podocarp-hardwood forest between the Okarito River and the Waiho River (Tennyson et al. 2003). Eggs are laid from July to January, and the clutch size is one, but sometimes clutches can be overlapped. The nest is in a burrow, hollow base of a tree, or in a hollow log. The species is flightless and nocturnal, resting by day in a burrow, hollow tree or log or under thick vegetation. It feeds by walking slowly along tapping the ground, probing the bill into leaf litter or rotten logs when food is detected. Food is mostly small invertebrates, especially earthworms and larvae of beetles, cicadas and moths (Robertson 2013).

The species underwent massive historic declines and disappeared from most of its former range as a result of a combination of habitat loss and predation by introduced mammals. Declines up until the 1990s were attributed to recruitment failure caused by predation of chicks and juveniles by stoats Mustela erminea, and some adults being killed by dogs and motor vehicles.

Conservation and research actions underway 
'Operation Nest Egg' (the removal of eggs or young chicks from the wild and rearing in captivity and on Motuara Island, until large enough to cope with the presence of stoats), allowed the population to increase to about 200 birds by 2000. A landscape-scale stoat trapping programme in South Okarito Forest from 2001-2005 largely failed to protect chicks from stoat predation. Operation Nest Egg was reinstated, leading to the recent rapid population growth. New populations have been established on Mana and Blumine Islands, but birds have yet to breed at these sites (Robertson 2013).
Conservation and research actions proposed
Carry out landscape-scale pest control at sufficient intervals at the sites that are currently unmanaged, specifically for mustelids, rats, cats and dogs (Holzapfel et al. 2008). Conduct research into reasons for low productivity. Evaluate further islands for possible translocations. Intensively manage the population using the BNZONE programme to increase the population size (Holzapfel et al. 2008). Consider establishing a further population in North Okarito Forest (B. Weeber in litt. 2000). Undertake population modelling. 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 1998, Holzapfel et al. 2008).

Baker, A. J.; Daugherty, C. H.; Colbourne, R.; McLennan, J. L. 1995. Flightless Brown Kiwis of New Zealand possess extremely subdivided population structure and cryptic species like small mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 92: 8254-8258.

Basse, B., McLennan, J.A. and Wake, G.C. 1999. Analysis of the impact of stoats, Mustela erminea, on the northern brown kiwi, Apteryx mantelli, in New Zealand. Journal of Wildlife Research 26: 227-237.

Calder, W.A., Parr, C.R. and Karl, D.P. 1978. Energy content of eggs of Brown Kiwi Apteryx australis-extreme in avian evolution. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 60(2): 177-179.

Colbourne, R. 2002. Incubation behaviour and egg physiology of kiwi (Apteryx spp.) in natural habitats. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 26(2): 129-138.

Colbourne, R., Bassett, S., Billing, A., McCormack, H., McLennan, J., Nelson, A. and Robertson, H. 2005. The development of Operation Nest Egg as a tool in the conservation management of kiwi. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Corfield, J.; Gillman, L.; Parsons, S. 2008. Vocalizations of the North Island Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli). The Auk 125(2): 326-335.

Heather, B. D.; Robertson, H. A. 1997. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Holzapfel, S.; Robertson, H.A.; McLennan, J.A.; Sporle, W.; Hackwell, K.; Impey, M. 2008 . Kiwi (Apteryx spp.) recovery plan: 2008–2018. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Hutching, G. 1995. Kiwi recovery? Attempting to save a national icon. Forest and Bird 278: 22-28.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Marchant, S.; Higgins, P. J. 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 1: ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

McLennan, J. A.; Potter, M. A.; Robertson, H. A.; Wake, G. C.; Colbourne, R.; Dew, L.; Joyce, L.; McCann, A. J.; Miles, J.; Miller, P. J.; Reid, J. 1996. Role of predation in the decline of kiwi, Apteryx spp., in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 20: 27-35.

McLennan, J.A., Dew, L., Miles, J., Gillingham, N. and Waiwai, R. 2004. Size matters: predation risk and juvenile growth in North Island Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli). New Zealand Journal of Ecology 28(2): 241-250.

Miller, P. J.; Pierce, R. J. 1995. Distribution and decline of the North Island Brown Kiwi (Apteryx australis mantelli) in Northland. Notornis 42: 203-211.

Pickard, J. G. 2009. The National Kiwi Trust - Kiwi encounter. International Zoo News 56(7): 388-400.

Pierce, R.J. and Sporle, W. 1997. Causes of kiwi mortality in Northland. Conservation Advisory Notes 169. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Robertson, H. A. 1998. Kiwi recovery plan 1996--2006. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Robertson, H. A. 2013. Okarito brown kiwi. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. Available at:

Robertson, H.A., Colbourne, R.A., Graham, P.J., Miller, P.J. and Pierce, R.J. 2010. Experimental management of Brown Kiwi Apteryx mantelli in central Northland, New Zealand. Bird Conservation International.

Taborsky, M. 1988. Kiwis and dog predation: observations in Waitangi State Forest. Notornis 35: 197-202.

Tennyson, A. J. D., Palma, R. L.; Robertson, H. A.; Worthy, T. H.; Gill, B. J. 2003. A new species of kiwi (Aves, Apterygiformes) from Okarito, New Zealand. Records of the Auckland Museum 40: 55-64.

Ziesemann, B.; Brunton. D. H.; Castro, I. C. 2011. Nesting success and breeding ecology in a high-density population of Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli). Emu 111(2): 148-154.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Mahood, S., Martin, R, McClellan, R., Taylor, J. & Symes, A.

Robertson, H., Weeber, B. & Germano, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Apteryx rowi. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Rowi (Apteryx rowi) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Apterygidae (Kiwis)
Species name author Tennyson <i>et al</i>., 2003
Population size 200-249 mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 240 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species