Kiwi are adaptable and can live in many different types of places. They survive quite well when predators are controlled, enough shelter and feeding places are left, and the ground is not too dry or hard.
Where do kiwi live?
Kiwi don’t need pristine native forest, and are found in scrub and rough farmland, exotic plantation forests, sand dunes and snowy tussocks, even mangroves.
They especially like places with wetland vegetation, and where trees run down to a river’s edge.
Because they are soil feeders, kiwi prefer places where they can get straight to the dirt, rather than having to probe through the thick leaf litter of a forest floor. They dislike places trampled by livestock because the ground is compacted and hard.
Who is doing it?
Because it manages one-third of New Zealand’s land mass, including the five kiwi sanctuaries, the Department of Conservation (DOC) is a key player in protecting kiwi habitat. Community-led kiwi conservation groups are also big players, with more than 80 now established throughout New Zealand, protecting tens of thousands of hectares.
Many private landowners help protect kiwi habitat, through formal legal protection, and/or simply by making choices about how they manage their land and control their dogs.
Many forest owners and managers are also doing their bit to protect the kiwi that make a home among their trees.
More practical information on protecting kiwi habitat is available here.
Healthy habitat has benefits for more than just kiwi
Creating pest and predator-free sanctuaries brings benefits for many of New Zealand’s other native plants and animals, as well as kiwi.
Kiwi are used by DOC as one of seven ‘indicator’ species. The others are the lesser short-tailed bat, kākā, kōkako, dactylanthus (the wood rose), wrybill and mohua.
The idea is that, if kiwi are doing well, other species must also be doing well.
For example, more kiwi suggests fewer predators are around, and fewer predators is good for other native birds and insects in the area. Possums not only disturb kiwi nests, they also eat Powelliphanta (New Zealand’s giant carnivorous land snail) and the eggs and chicks of many other native birds. Stoats are as deadly for native insects, bats and other native birds as they are for kiwi. And rats take a huge impact on the whole natural ecosystem, not only killing native animals, but also stealing their food.