Great spotted kiwi

The vanishing largest kiwi with a mongoose-like fur

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Great spotted kiwi


The vanishing largest kiwi with a mongoose-like fur

Population 14,000
43% decline in the past 45 years

The Great Spotted Kiwi is a symbolic bird of New Zealand, holding the status of being the largest among the kiwi species. Its feathers are extraordinary; unlike the smooth plumage typical of many birds, the Great Spotted Kiwi’s feathers are shaggy and hair-like, ranging from grey to light brown. This adaptation provides insulation and camouflage within their natural habitat.

These birds possess facial whiskers around the gape, which are thought to be tactile, aiding in navigation and detecting food at night. The absence of a tail is another distinctive trait of kiwis, contributing to their round shape and compact appearance.

As nocturnal creatures, Great Spotted Kiwis prefer the cover of darkness to forage and socialize. However, in areas devoid of predators, they may occasionally venture out during daylight hours. Their nocturnal lifestyle is complemented by a strong sense of smell—a rarity among birds—which they use to locate food, consisting primarily of invertebrates in the soil.

The Great Spotted Kiwi is a territorial and, at times, aggressive bird. Males, in particular, defend their territories vigorously. A mating pair may occupy a territory of up to 25 hectares (62 acres), which can contain up to 50 burrows. These burrows are crucial for their survival, offering shelter from predators and the elements.

The vocalizations of the Great Spotted Kiwi are as distinctive as their appearance. They communicate with a repertoire of hisses, growls, and bill-clapping sounds, which serve various purposes, from mating calls to expressions of distress.

Historically, before human settlement, it is estimated that there were around 12 million Great Spotted Kiwis in New Zealand. However, their numbers have dwindled dramatically, with current estimates indicating as few as 8,000 individuals remaining. The decline is largely attributed to introduced predators such as stoats, dogs, and cats, as well as habitat loss and human encroachment.


Population est.
New Zealand
Official estimate

Anything we've missed?

Help us improve this page by suggesting edits. Glory never dies!

Suggest an edit

Get to know me

Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No