A male kiwi needs a territory before he can attract a mate.
They fiercely protect their patch and fights can be rough. These involve high jumps and slashing blows, kicks and tears. A kiwi’s sharp claws and powerful legs and feet can inflict fatal wounds.
Once territories are established, border disputes are usually resolved by less dangerous means – birds call to mark the edge of their territory, and the sound can carry several kilometres. To avoid a confrontation, kiwi speed back into their home zone before returning their neighbour’s call.
The size of territories ranges from 2 hectares to 100 hectares, depending on the species and their location. Rowi and Haast tokoeka have the largest territories – up to 100 hectares. The size of the Stewart Island tokoeka’s territory varies, depending on food supply. In the leaner coastal sand dunes, family groups can command 50 hectares, while in food-rich tussock grassland of Mason Bay, just 5 hectares will do. Stewart Island tokoeka are unusual among many kiwi varieties because they live in small mixed-age family groups.
Finding a mate
Kiwi are unusual among birds because, once bonded as a pair, they usually stay together as a life-long monogamous couple. Traditional gender roles are reversed – the female is bigger and dominates the male. This is also extremely rare among birds.