See a Real-life Kiwi!
Considering kiwis are New Zealand’s national icon, you would think they are everywhere. They’re not. Kiwi birds are not only an endangered 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 zoos to see a real-life kiwi. So where can you see kiwi birds in New Zealand?
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.
Kiwi Spotting in NZ
Spotting a kiwi is on many traveller’s bucket lists when visiting New Zealand, so we’ve divided this article into the three methods of seeing a kiwi:
- Where to see a kiwi in the wild
- See a kiwi in a sanctuary
- Where to see a kiwi in captivity
Kiwis 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 sound 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.
Places to see a wild kiwi are:
- Waipoua Forest, Northland
- Aroha Island, Kerikeri
- Warkworth, North Auckland
- Ohope Scenic Reserve, Whakatane
- Kapiti Island
- Okarito, Franz Josef
- Tuatapere, Southland
- Stewart Island
One of the most famous kiwi sanctuaries in New Zealand is Zealandia, just outside Wellington city. It is a valley sanctuary and tourist attraction where you can see kiwis and many other native New Zealand wildlife in their natural habitat, albeit a controlled habitat. The 225ha (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.
There are also other sanctuaries supported by the Department of Conservation, allowing more kiwis to survive and increase the population. These sanctuaries are:
- The Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary, Northland
- The Moehau Kiwi Sanctuary, Coromandel
- Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary, Ruapehu
- The Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, West Coast
- The Haast Tokoeka Sanctuary, South West Coast
- The Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Dunedin
The sanctuaries of Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Waimarino Forest are also safe havens in the North Island. Follow our story on releasing a kiwi into the wild here: Saving Smaug the Kiwi Bird.
Kiwis in Captivity
There are various places in New Zealand to see a kiwi in captivity. The brown kiwi is permanently kept in captivity, whereas the captivity of little spotted and grey spotted kiwis are being reduced. Kiwis are held in captive facilities for research, practice captive management skills, and for tourism. Here are some of the places you can see a kiwi in captivity:
- Kiwi North, Whangarei
- Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs, Rotorua
- Kiwi House and Native Bird Park, Otorohanga
- Pukaha National Wildlife Centre (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Wairarapa
- Kiwi Birdlife Park (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Queenstown
- National Kiwi Centre, Hokitika
- West Coast Wildlife Centre (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Franz Josef
Quick Facts About Kiwi Birds
- Kiwis are the only bird with nostrils at the end of its beak
- Female kiwis are larger than males
- There are five species of kiwi
- There are about 70,000 kiwis in New Zealand
- The kiwi first became a national symbol in the 19th century when they appeared on regimental badges.