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Kiwis: Apterygidae

Brown Kiwi (apteryx Australis): Species Account

Physical characteristics: There are two subspecies (or types) of brown kiwi, the southern tokoeka kiwi, also called the Stewart Island brown kiwi, and Haast tokoeka kiwi, also known as the Haast brown kiwi. The southern variety is larger, with a stout body, powerful claws for digging, and loose brown and black feathers. It has a long beak with nostrils at the end for smelling. The Haast tokoeka kiwi is smaller with a plump, round body and small head with little eyes. It has a long beak that curves slightly downward with nostrils at the end.

Brown kiwis range in size from 18 to 22 inches (45 to 55 centimeters) with females weighing 4.6 to 8.5 pounds (2.1 to 3.9 kilograms) and males weighing 3.6 to 6.1 pounds (1.6 to 2.8 kilograms). They have short wings that end with a claw.

Geographic range: The Haast tokoeka kiwi is found in only a few mountainous areas of North Island New Zealand where the winters are harsh. The southern tokoeka kiwi is found on preserves in Fiordland and Westland on South Island and on Stewart Island.

Habitat: The Haast tokoeka kiwi lives in the coniferous pine forests of North Island while the southern tokoeka kiwi lives in subtropical, temperate, deciduous, and coniferous forests and shrublands.

Diet: Brown kiwis are mainly insectivores, meaning they eat mostly insects. Their diet includes earthworms, beetles, snails, caterpillars, centipedes, spiders, cockroaches, praying mantises, locusts, crickets, grasshoppers, and insect larvae.

Behavior and reproduction: Brown kiwis are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. During the day, they sleep in dens or burrows. They are monogamous, meaning they mate with only one partner during one or more breeding seasons. They live in pairs and are territorial, meaning they are protective of an area they consider home and claim exclusively for themselves. A brown kiwi pair's territory ranges from 12 to 106 acres (5 to 43 hectares).

During the breeding season, the female lays one or two eggs in a nest made in thick vegetation. The male incubates the eggs, meaning he sits on them to keep them warm so the embryos inside can develop and hatch. The incubation period is about ninety days.

Brown kiwis and people: The brown kiwi has no economic significance for humans. It is a protected species in New Zealand and the government has established a recovery program for them, including captive breeding and establishing sanctuaries.

Conservation status: The brown kiwi is listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable. There are an estimated 30,000 southern tokoeka kiwis in the wild and only 200 to 300 Haast tokoeka kiwis in a few select areas of New Zealand. ∎



Davies, S. J. J. F., et al. Bird Families of the World. Vol. 8, Ratites and Tinamous: Tinamidae, Rheidae, Dromaiidae, Casuariidae, Apterygidae, Struthionidae. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Elwood, Ann, and John B. Wexo. Ostriches, Emus, Rheas, Kiwis, and Cassowaries (Zoo Books). Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2000.

Harris, Timothy. Ostriches, Rheas, Cassowaries, Emus, and Kiwis. New York: Beech Publishing House, 1997.

Lockyer, John, et al. The Kiwi. Auckland, New Zealand: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd., 2002.

Talbot-Kelly, Chloe. Collins Birds of New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins New Zealand, 1997.


De Roy, Tui. "New Zealand's Bizarre Un-Bird." International Wildlife (May–June 1997): 38–43.

Grzelewski, Derek. "Night Belongs to the Kiwi—It May Look Fuzzy and Adorable but This New Zealand Bird is One Tough Customer." Smithsonian (March 2000): 76.

Web sites:

Matherly, Carrie. "Apteryx haastii." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Apteryx_haastii.html (accessed on June 6, 2004).

Naumann, Robert. "Apteryx owenii." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Apteryx_owenii.html (accessed on June 6, 2004).

Tervo, Kari. "Apteryx australis." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Apteryx_australis.html (accessed on June 6, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsKiwis: Apterygidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Brown Kiwi (apteryx Australis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, KIWIS AND PEOPLE