The Amazing Kiwi

Kiwi are quirky and curious creatures: they cannot fly, have loose, hair-like feathers, strong legs and no tail.


Kiwi are ratites. The closest relatives to kiwi today is the elephant bird from Madagascar. They are also related to emus and cassowaries of Australia, and the extinct moa of New Zealand.

There are five species of kiwi:

  • Brown Kiwi
  • Great Spotted Kiwi
  • Little Spotted Kiwi
  • Rowi
  • Tokoeka

Kiwi can live for between 25 and 50 years. Chicks hatch fully feathered. They emerge from the nest to feed at about five days old and are never fed by their parents. Juveniles grow slowly, taking three to five years to reach adult size.

Cultural Importance

Kiwi are a significant national icon, equally cherished by all cultures in New Zealand. Kiwi are a symbol for the uniqueness of New Zealand wildlife and the value of our natural heritage.

The bird itself is a taonga (treasure) to Maori, who have strong cultural, spiritual and historic associations with kiwi. Its feathers are valued in weaving kahukiwi (kiwi feather cloak) for people of high rank.

Due to the cultural significance to Maori and the traditional knowledge about the bird, tangata whenua, along with the Department of Conservation, are a key stakeholders in kiwi management. For a number of local iwi and hapu throughout New Zealand, this relationship between tangata whenua and kiwi has been formally recognised as part of their Treaty of Waitangi settlement claims, which encompass specific references to species recovery work.


Male and femaile kiwi sound quite different. Have a listen...

Male kiwi Female kiwi