how many kiwi birds are left 2021

When the first kiwi was released, according to Ward, a silence descended upon the 400-strong assembly as they saw their first glimpse of the bird.

“They are central to Maori myth. Our rugby league teams, sports teams, armed forces, and even when we travel abroad, we are referred to as Kiwis

“We have had a special connection to the kiwi ever since people came to New Zealand,” project leader and founder Paul Ward told AFP.

As Ward describes it, “blitzing stoats” reduced the number of predators to the point where the project was able to release the first batch of kiwi last November.

According to the Department of Conservation, New Zealand is home to only 70,000 wild kiwis.

Kiwis and Their Kiwi

Kiwi. Courtesy of Judi Lapsley Miller, Wikimedia Commons

Since the 17th century, when The Age of Discovery was at its height, the iconic kiwi has been rapidly declining, but efforts to increase their numbers are gradually beginning to pay off. This article examines the depressing past and bright future of this occasionally grumpy bird.

The kiwi bird is unique to New Zealand and serves as both the unofficial emblem and icon for the country, giving its name to its people. This bird is unlike any other; it has a body resembling a brownish-grey fuzzy football, lacks the ability to fly, is only active at night, burrows itself, has loose feathers that resemble hair, strong, thick legs, no tail, and a long, decurved bill. It is about the size of a chicken and looks more like a crazy science fiction writer’s creation than a real bird.

There are only five species of kiwi left in the world: the North Island brown kiwi, which is the most common; the largest, the Great spotted kiwi, also called the roroa, which is found only on the South Island; the smallest, the Little spotted kiwi, also known as the little grey kiwi or kiwi pukapuka, which is found only in predator-excluded reserves on a few small offshore islands and has about 1,600 individuals remaining; the Southern brown kiwi, also called tokoeka, or common kiwi, which has about 9,000 fewer birds than its North Island counterpart; and the Okarito brown kiwi, also known as rowi, which is the most critically endangered species and is found only in predator-excluded areas on the South Island.

North Island Brown Kiwi. Courtesy of Peter de Lange, Wikimedia Commons.

These numbers should bring home to you the terrifying fact that they are virtually extinct and that their population is constantly in danger of declining to the point where they will be unable to survive. One of the main goals of New Zealand’s renownedly progressive Department of Conservation (DOC) is to save these birds.

Studies conducted nationwide reveal that, on average, only 5% of kiwi chicks survive to adulthood in the wild, with the majority of them being killed by invasive species like possums, weasels, rats, and stoats. This alarming statistic is also influenced by the fact that the parents abandon their fully feathered chicks as soon as they hatch. A significant portion of the remaining chicks and adults who do survive are killed by human trophy hunting, habitat loss, and attacks by domestic and feral pets.

A national charity called Kiwis for kiwi estimates that of the 20% of the entire kiwi population that is managed, they can expect a far better outcome of around 50 – 60% chick survival. Charities like this one and the DOC have managed to instil a great deal of awareness into the public, whose steady reporting of deceased, sick or injured birds and minimising threats from their pets positively influences these conservation efforts. Kiwis are proud of their kiwis and the majority band together to do all they can.

The Maori gave rise to the name “kiwi,” which is believed to have two origins: either it comes from their piercing call, or some people think early Polynesian explorers confused them with the bristle-thighed curlew, a migratory bird that spent the summer on their Pacific islands and was known as the “kivi.” Perhaps this curlew’s round body with its mottled browns and greys and its similar decurved bill served as the model.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Although the people living on those breathtakingly remote islands had been aware of kiwis for centuries, it wasn’t until the arrival of European explorers in 1642 that the rest of the world became aware of them.

Unfortunately, it was that very arrival that marked the start of the dramatic decline in kiwi populations, as stowaways and rodent control mammals, including cats and rats, gleefully scampered off the ships and went on a ravenous rampage. With no way to escape and no idea what a “predator” was, these birds had very little chance of surviving and definitely no time to develop any real defenses.

But when provoked, their razor-sharp claws and powerful hind legs can and do deal a serious blow to enemies. Their would-be saviors who have occasionally been on the receiving end refer to this as their “grumpy attitude.” However, the birds must first have the opportunity to develop their legs and attitude, and far too many are killed before they reach that point.

how many kiwi birds are left 2021

As of right now, New Zealand has five government-funded kiwi sanctuaries—three on the North Island and two on the South—along with a number of privately or nonprofit-run initiatives that also receive government funding. A number of initiatives, including Operation Nest Egg, have contributed to a relative increase in population. When stoats killed nearly all of the kiwi chicks in 1994, they avoided the claws and left the adults alone.

As a result, eggs are found in the wild and subsequently put in “crèche sites” at zoos and other organizations that participate. Although the removal of the egg may seem harsh, this method is thought to have a double-sided win because, putting human emotions aside, the parents do abandon the chicks to whatever fate they end up with, and they may be more likely to try for another egg if one is no longer there.

In areas known as kohanga kiwi sites, which are under predator control, young animals are raised until they weigh approximately 1 kg, or until they are large enough to kick. The discovery of a North Island brown’s footprint recently on the western side of Taranaki Mountain, across from a kohanga, gave rise to optimism that their range for mating was growing. Due to effective management, the number of kiwis at one sanctuary site in Moehau, at the tip of the Coromandel peninsula, has doubled over the past ten years.

Little spotted kiwi egg. Courtesy of Judi Lapsley Miller, Wikimedia Commons.

A wildlife center situated on Rotorua Island, east of Auckland, recently commemorated ten years of its designation as a crèche site. The Salvation Army established a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center on the island, which served thousands of afflicted New Zealanders for more than 90 years before closing its doors in 2005.

Soon after, two benefactors determined it was the ideal location to assist another Kiwi who was in need. The sanctuary reopened to the public in 2011 following three years of work that involved removing the old, inappropriate pine trees, planting over 100,000 native trees, and adapting the buildings.

A one-month-old North Island brown kiwi named Jack became the 79th bird to be released from there into a kohanga in early April 2021 to commemorate this auspicious occasion. To the sounds of an absolutely wonderful event, the traditional Maori welcome ceremony called a Pă¨whiri was held.

Kiwi warning sign. Courtesy of Reinhard Dietrich, Wikimedia Commons.

According to the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed by the Maori tribes and the British Crown, Maori have guardianship (kaitiakitanga) over their taonga, or “treasure,” which includes kiwi.

Maori children perform special songs, and tribe elders formally welcome the released birds to their new homes with blessings and hopes for a safe future. It’s a truly beautiful gesture for this puffball of a bird that needs all the love and support we can give it, no matter how grumpy it gets. This is how every released bird is celebrated.

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About the author: Our writer and researcher for the Bird Buddy blog is Sim Wood. She is currently remodeling her Slovenian property with her spouse and making do without a plan. She is also proficient in 72 bird species’ calls and songs. Favorite bird: shoebill.


How many kiwis birds are left?

It’s estimated there were once about 12 million kiwi, but by 1998 the population had plummeted to fewer than 100,000 birds. By 2008 that figure had fallen even further, to about 70,000. Today it’s estimated there are around 68,000 kiwis left and unmanaged kiwi populations continue to decline by 2% every year.

How close are kiwis to extinction?

The brown kiwi is one of our most common kiwi species; however, the population is steadily declining. Without ongoing support, experts estimate brown kiwi will be extinct in the wild within two generations. For many New Zealanders, brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) is the species we think of when kiwi are talked about.

Are kiwis no longer endangered?

There are five recognised species, four of which are currently listed as vulnerable, and one of which is near threatened. All species have been negatively affected by historic deforestation, but their remaining habitat is well protected in large forest reserves and national parks.

Are there any kiwi birds in the US?

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute was the first institution to successfully breed these unique birds outside of New Zealand in 1975. Over the years, the Zoo has celebrated many hatchings, including 10 chicks at SCBI and seven at the Zoo.