Kiwi facts & characteristics - Header Image

Kiwi have many weird and wonderful features thanks to New Zealand's ancient isolation and lack of mammals. It is thought they evolved to occupy a habitat and lifestyle that elsewhere in the world would be filled by a mammal, and their one-off evolutionary design holds all sorts of biological records.

Quick Kiwi Facts

An average of 27 kiwi are killed by predators EVERY WEEK. That’s a population decline of around 1,400 kiwi every year (or 2%). At this rate, kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime. Just one hundred years ago, kiwi numbered in the millions.

A single roaming dog can wipe out an entire kiwi population in a matter of days

Approximately 20% of the kiwi population is under management.

In areas under where predators are controlled, 50-60% of chicks survive. When areas are not under management 95% of kiwi die before reaching breeding age.

Only 20% survival rate of kiwi chicks is needed for the population to increase.

Proof of success – on the Coromandel, in the predator controlled area, the kiwi population is doubling every decade.

What’s so unusual?

Kiwi are flightless – their Latin species name is Apteryx, which means wingless. They belong to an ancient group of birds that can’t fly – the ratites. Because they can’t fly, how they arrived in New Zealand is not completely clear.

Kiwi habits and physical characteristics are so like a mammal the bird is sometimes referred to as an honorary mammal. It has feathers like hair, nostrils at the end of its beak and an enormous egg.

Most kiwi are nocturnal birds, like many of New Zealand’s native animals. Their calls pierce the forest air at dusk and dawn.

Kiwi are omnivores. Discover what foods they find with their unusual beak.

Even though kiwi are unusual enough, tall stories abound about the bird.

Find out more about kiwi

Kiwi are ratites - teaser image

Kiwi are ratites »

Kiwi are part of a group of largely flightless birds known as ratites. Ostriches, emu and the extinct moa are also part of this group.

Honorary mammals - teaser image

Honorary mammals »

The kiwi is sometimes referred to as an honorary mammal because of it's unbird-like habits and physical characteristics

The hidden bird of Tāne - teaser image

The hidden bird of Tāne »

Te manu huna a Tāne / The hidden bird of Tāne - In Maori tradition, all living things on Earth originate from the union of Rangi-nui (the Sky Father) and Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother).

Flightless - teaser image

Flightless »

The kiwi is one of New Zealand's many flightless birds. This is because of the lack of land mammal predators before man arrived in New Zealand 1000 years ago

Feathers like hair - teaser image

Feathers like hair »

Because kiwi do not fly, their feathers have evolved a unique texture to suit a ground-based lifestyle

An unusual beak - teaser image

An unusual beak »

The kiwi has an extremely unusual beak. Not only does it provide a keen sense of smell, it also has sensory pits at the tip which allow the kiwi to sense prey moving underground.

Species and population dynamics - teaser image

Species and population dynamics »

Understanding kiwi’s social systems allows us to be more effective in helping populations grow.

Enormous egg - teaser image

Enormous egg »

In proportion to its body size, the female kiwi lays a bigger egg than almost any other bird. While a full term human baby is 5% of its mother's body weight, the kiwi egg takes up 20% of the mother's body

Kiwi life cycle - teaser image

Kiwi life cycle »

Kiwi make their home in many different environments and have been described as 'breeding machines'. With the eradication of predators, the kiwi could be successful once again

Kiwi signs - teaser image

Kiwi signs »

This Save Kiwi Month, we’re working with Nature Watch to see if you can find kiwi where you live. Join us in the search for kiwi!