Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand© Tourism New Zealand
Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand

Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand

© Tourism New Zealand

Where to See Kiwi in the Wild, in Captivity, in Sanctuaries and More

Considering kiwis are New Zealand‘s national icon, you would think they are everywhere. They’re not. Kiwi birds are not only endangered or vulnerable, depending on the sub-species, but nocturnal so chances of just bumping into one are very slim. However, because Kiwis love kiwis, there are plenty of conservation projects set up to protect these native flightless birds. Additionally, there are sanctuaries and hatcheries to see a real-life kiwi. So where can you see kiwi birds in New Zealand?

Where Do Kiwi Birds Live and Where Can You See Them?

The kiwi habitat is mostly dark bush areas of New Zealand like the forests or sometimes wetlands. Seeing them in the wild is a truly rewarding experience but pretty tough to accomplish, especially when most sightings occur at night.

Alternatively, seeing a kiwi in a conservation house or centre gives you the opportunity for a closer look, but lacks that feeling of wonder and achievement that you get when seeing a wild kiwi.

Either way, here are the different places where you can find a kiwi bird in New Zealand.

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Where to See Kiwi in the Wild

The kiwi’s natural habitat is in remote forest areas, usually nesting in burrows, hollow logs or under vegetation. You are more likely to hear the males’ loud screeching call or the females’ hissing sounds in the wild. For those determined enough to see a kiwi in its natural habitat, kiwi spotting tours will give you a better chance of making dreams come true.

Wild Kiwi Habitats on the North Island

Wild Kiwi Habitats on the South Island

For information about tours to see kiwi in the wild, check out the 20 Best Places to See a Kiwi Bird in New Zealand.

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See Kiwi at a Kiwi Sanctuary

What is a kiwi sanctuary? “Sanctuary” is a loose term but mainly means an area that has conservation controls in place to boost the native wildlife population, in this case, especially kiwi. Controls can be pest traps and a protective border, like a predator-proof fence or water.

Sanctuaries are a good in-between for seeing kiwi in the wild; the birds are able to roam freely in a vast natural landscape. This also means that a sighting is certainly not guaranteed, but guided night tours at some sanctuaries will significantly increase your chances.

Kiwi Sanctuaries on the North Island

Zealandia (Wellington)

One of the most famous kiwi sanctuaries in New Zealand is Zealandia in Wellington. It is a valley sanctuary and tourist attraction where you can see kiwi and many other native New Zealand wildlife in their natural habitat, albeit a controlled habitat. The 225 ha (556 acre) area is protected by a specially designed fence to protect the wildlife within from any mammalian pests. Zealandia puts on night tours to see the little spotted kiwi. Learn more about Zealandia and book your night tour on Viator or Klook

Kiwi Sanctuaries on the South Island

Department of Conservation Kiwi Sanctuaries

There are also other sanctuaries supported by the Department of Conservation (DOC), allowing more kiwi to survive and increase the population. These sanctuaries are:

Learn more about kiwi conservation at such sanctuaries on the DOC website.

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Where to See Kiwi in Captivity

There are various places in New Zealand to see a kiwi in captivity. Kiwis are held in captive facilities for research, to practice captive management skills, for breeding programs, and for tourism.

We always recommend that you do your research for the most ethical attractions with kiwi in captivity. Research to see if the conservation efforts seem legitimate. We also check if an attraction has exotic animals on display or animals that are unnecessarily held in captivity.

The Best (and Most Ethical) Places to See Kiwi in Captivity

For more suggestions, as well as kiwi tours to see kiwi in the wild, check out the 20 Best Places to See a Kiwi Bird in New Zealand.

5 Quick Facts About Kiwi Birds

  1. Kiwis are the only bird with nostrils at the end of their bill
  2. Female kiwi are larger than males
  3. There are five species of kiwi
  4. There are about 70,000 kiwi in New Zealand
  5. The kiwi first became a national symbol in the 19th century when they appeared on regimental badges.

Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com

Frequently Asked Questions About Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand

If your question hasn’t already been answered about where to see kiwi birds, then these might help.

Where Can Kiwis Be Seen?

Kiwi can be seen in forested areas of New Zealand, particularly where are strong conservation controls in place such as pest trapping. Kiwi can also be seen in captivity in hatcheries and zoos.

Can You See Kiwis in Auckland?

Kiwi can be seen in Auckland in the wild at Tawharanui Open Sanctuary and Shakespear Open Sanctuary, as well as many of the off-shore islands of the Hauraki Gulf, such as Rotoroa Island.

Can You See a Kiwi in Some Zoos in New Zealand?

Yes, you can see kiwi at some zoos in New Zealand, as well as exotic and native animals in enclosures.

What Time is Best to See Kiwi?

Kiwi are nocturnal animals, so the best time to see them before it gets too dark is shortly before sunrise and shortly after dawn. The kiwi on Stewart Island commonly roam until around midday.

Where is the Best Place to See the Kiwis on North Island?

The best place to see kiwi on the North Island is at the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua or on guided night tours at Zealandia in Wellington.

Can I Hold a Kiwi in New Zealand?

In most cases, you cannot hold a kiwi in New Zealand. The rare times you can handle a kiwi is when involved in kiwi conservation efforts where the public might be invited to join, such as kiwi releases.

How Easy is it to See a Kiwi?

Not very! Kiwi are not only nocturnal animals, but they are also classed as endangered or vulnerable, depending on the sub-species. For these reasons, it’s best to join guided night tours to see kiwi in the wild or view kiwi in captivity following the advice we state above.

More About Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand

That’s it for our guide on where to see kiwi birds in New Zealand, but there’s a lot more to discover on the subject! Just check out these guides:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in the 20 Best Places to See a Kiwi Bird in New Zealand.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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