Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Return to Rakiura - Kiwi

Rakiura - Stewart Island is a special place, it's wild, it's mostly National Park, it's home to many native animals. Best of all it is one place in New Zealand where you can see kiwi during the daytime.

Kiwi are generally nocturnal, they have poor sight and hunt by smell. It is thought they evolved to be nocturnal to avoid the (now-extinct) Haast's Eagle.  I've heard lots of theories about why Tokoeka (the Stewart Island kiwi species) come out during the daytime as well as at night. One is that the summer nights are so short they also need to feed during the daytime, another that because they live in family groups they all get a different shift off the nest. Whatever the reason it makes this the best place in New Zealand to see kiwi.

On my first trip, I was tantalised by hearing calls at night and, in the morning, a beach covered in footprints.
Kiwi footprints on the beach
This kiwi dragged its beak along the sand too
And this was a kiwi feast, you can see the beak marks
 as well as footprints. They like to eat sand hoppers.
Several years ago I had the good fortune to see six kiwi on a North West Circuit tramp, all on a dark morning between 9 and 10am.

This January, I saw three kiwi. The first was while tramping on what is part of the Southern Circuit. It was midday and the kiwi was running across the track. The second was at Ocean Beach. We travelled there at night with Real Journeys and walked through the bush and along the beach. We saw a kiwi in the bush and, just as in my earlier trip, we were also tantalised by a trail of just-made prints along the beach, but sadly saw no more. The third sighting was on Ulva Island sanctuary in Paterson Inlet at two in the afternoon. A family group up the track ahead of me came across two kiwi having a scrap. I got there just in time to see one of the kiwi return up the track.
If you look closely you can see the kiwi by the fallen tree just off the path.
And in the viewfinder of the children's camera!
The best view of the kiwi is in a video (you need Adobe Flash Player to watch this.)

According to the booklet on Ulva Island  Te Wharawhara: explore an island paradise there are 30-40 kiwi on the island and they are rarely seen.

Other birds seen on the Ulva Island sanctuary include: tūī, weka, toutouwai (Stewart Island robin), pīpipi (brown creepers), korimako (bellbird), riroriro (grey warbler), kākāriki, kākā, tīeke (South Island saddleback), kererū, pīwakawaka (fantail), tōrea (oystercatcher), mohua (yellow head), rifleman (tītīpounamu), ngirungiru (tomtit). Ulva Island is a sanctuary with no rats or other introduced predators or animal pests.

The much larger Rakiura Island has no mustelids (stoats, ferrets, weasels), goats, pigs or mice, perhaps the lack of mustelids is a help to the kiwi population here. There are thought to be around 15,000 kiwi here. Elsewhere in New Zealand kiwi numbers are declining.

What you can do for kiwi in any part of the country

  • If you have a dog, make sure it has kiwi aversion training. Dogs kill kiwi, so this is important.
  • Campaign for retaining or restoring kiwi habitats. Kiwi need their forests. 
  • Log kiwi sightings on iNaturalistNZ - Quest for Kiwi 
  • Do your bit when it comes to pest control, monitor traps or support those that do.

Related blogs
Return to Rakiura - Stewart Island about plants and trees on the island.

More information about kiwi