Haast tokoeka were identified as a distinct taxon in 1993. They have brown-grey plumage with a distinctive reddish tinge, whitish feet, a short beak with down-curved bills, and long whiskers.
Haast tokoeka are a mountain-loving kiwi, shy and wary. They are the smallest member of the tokoeka group by size, and by population
The Haast tokoeka is very rare, with a population estimated in 2015 to be just 400 birds. This is based on surveys in the Haast, Olivine and Selbourne ranges, and in the Arawhata, Waiatoto, Okuru and Haast river valleys. Most Haast tokoeka live in the Haast Range, in southwest New Zealand.
Like the rowi, Haast tokoeka are classified by the Department of Conservation as ‘threatened (nationally critical)’, and the focus is to secure the species from extinction.
More than half of the population live in the Haast kiwi sanctuary where extensive predator control by the Department of Conservation and the use of Operation Nest Egg means the population is no longer declining. As part of kohanga kiwi, Haast tokoeka have been put into the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, near Dunedin.
Eighty per cent of the Haast taxa is actively managed, and the population is predicted to grow by 4.2% over the next 15 years.
Although the Haast tokoeka can be found near sea level, this is a mountain-loving bird which reaches its highest population density at the bushline and the fertile base of mountain slopes. Some birds spend the whole year in sub-alpine grasslands, up to 1500 metres high, digging burrows in snow when it covers the ground.