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

For example, the discovery that Stewart Island tokoeka and rowi form family groups lets us know whether we are managing these populations effectively:

  •  If we repeatedly find only pairs, it means they have not bred successfully, or their chicks have died.
  • On the other hand, an increase in the size of family groups shows breeding success.

Knowing about family ties also increases the likelihood of successfully releasing Operation Nest Egg subadults. With rowi, for example, family groups are exceptionally territorial, so we now know to release subadults well away from occupied territories.

Family intrigue

The role of family groups intrigues kiwi researchers. They have been recorded for some taxa but not others, and there are even variations within tokoeka—while there is nothing to suggest Haast tokoeka form family groups, they are found in the three other tokoeka taxa.

Researchers also think great spotted kiwi may form family groups. Family ties appear to be much weaker than in Stewart Island tokoeka or rowi, but great spotted kiwi chicks stay within the territory they were born in, and are occasionally found with their parents. One possibility is that family groups may last longer in high-density populations because young birds get beaten up by the neighbours if they leave their parents’ territory.