Conservation of Kiwi Birds on the Whangarei Heads~ New Zealand

Updated: Mar 28

~My goal is to share experiences of Kiwi conservation on the Whangarei Heads peninsula~

For millennia, New Zealand ~ Aotearoa ~ was adrift surrounded by ocean and ruled by birds. One bird, the cheeky Kiwi, set up house on the forest floor, sniffing out yummy grubs with a special beak that has nostrils on the tip. Kiwi wings are useless stubs, instead of flying, they have strong legs for walking and burrowing. A nocturnal lifestyle earns Kiwi birds some what of a mysterious reputation.

Sadly, New Zealand's national symbol is critically endangered with small isolated populations of Kiwi surviving in zoos, remote areas and off shore islands.

The Whangarei Heads peninsula is one of those remote areas thanks to a challenging terrain and areas of dense bush (forest). A population of Kiwi have survived, on the Heads, while their counterparts vanish from most other main land areas.

At the beginning of the new millennium, a distressing survey reported, the population of Kiwi on the Whangarei Heads had fallen from 10 000s to just 80 adult birds. Introduced mammals were killing all Kiwi chicks, leaving only a remnant adult population, doomed to extinction.

A Back Yard Kiwi Event

Visit Kiwi North

Explore the Whangarei Head


Whangarei Heads Land Care Forum Goes into Battle

However, the community group Whangarei Heads Land Care Forum with assistance from government agencies, lead a programme that is turning around this dire situation. Numbers are steadily increasing, with 880 Kiwi birds counted on the Heads, in the 2018 survey. The forum formed a special entity, 'Back Yard Kiwi', to spearhead the campaign to bring back Kiwi to the Heads. The programme concentrates on pest eradication, dog control and translocation of Kiwi into the Heads area. This short clip from Back Yard Kiwi sums up the programme to date.

It is my aim to participate in this programme and learn all I can about Kiwi conservation. You are welcome to come join me. What's more, I offer accommodation to visitors at our home stay Salthaven Guest House. Despite the Kiwi's nocturnal lifestyle there are opportunities for people visiting the Heads to see Kiwi birds up close!

Three Ways to Discover Kiwi Birds:

1. Time Your Stay with a Back Yard Kiwi Event

A tourist attending a Kiwi conservation event.  Tourist seeing a Kiwi bird at the Whangarei Heads
Kiwi Birds arrive from Lime Stone Island (pictured in the background) to the main land at Onerahi

Attending these events takes planning as they are held on an ad hoc basis and are not a tourist attraction as such. A popular event is a 'Kiwi Release' that historically takes place 2 or 3 times per year. Future release dates are advertised on 'Back Yard Kiwi's' website.

Claudia, is a Salt Haven guests I pictured at a 'Kiwi Release'. Her stay at Salt Haven coincided with a Kiwi Release and she really enjoyed attending this community celebration. On this occasion, the Kiwi had been reared on nearby Lime Stone Island, which is free of the main threats to Kiwi, stouts (an introduced pest) and pet dogs. This little guy was translocated the short distance from the island to the main land, at the Whangarei Heads.

Kiwi are released on the Heads when they have grown to a size that they can defend themselves against stouts. The community welcomes the birds on shore, at Onerahi, with a naming ceremony. Later in the day the Kiwi birds were ceremonially released at, Parua Bay. The community, 'Welcome' and 'Release', events are free and open to the public.

Boxes of Kiwi for translocation ~ Handled by Kiwi expert Todd Hamilton from Backyard Kiwi

Photo Credit for 'Welcome Pics' to Janice Samsung Note 8

Kiwi bird 'Welcome' and 'Release' locations with our accommodation

2. Visit 'Kiwi North' ~ Museum, Kiwi House and Heritage park

'Kiwi North' offer a day time exhibit featuring reliable Kiwi viewing opportunities. 'Kiwi North' is located at 500 State Highway 14, Whangarei. Opening hours are from 10am to 4pm daily. Kiwi North's website explains their exhibit as:

Here in Northland’s only nocturnal house we turn day into night, even replicating seasonal temperatures, to create a living, natural environment for New Zealand’s elusive iconic bird, the Kiwi. Watch them foraging for the live food and interacting in their enclosure just as they would in the wild. Cameras provide excellent viewing when they are inside their burrows preening, napping or simply doing the housework. Kiwi feeding accompanied by a talk by the keeper is three times daily at 11am, 1 and 3pm.

3. A coincidental encounter

Kiwi chick
Kiwi Chick ~ Photo Credit Tourism New Zealand

As kiwi numbers increase so do the reports of sightings. Kiwi birds are not shy and forage in populated areas. Visitors to the heads have encountered Kiwi birds on walking tracks, camp sites, back yards of houses and roadways (take care while driving). So keep your eyes open while exploring the Whangarei Heads. PLEASE do not handle Kiwi this is for professionals only!

Our Rating of Kiwi Experience 10/10

Review: Samsung Note 8

I include images and material from a variety of sources. However, I love to show my world through my own lens. The Samsung Note 8 is perfect for my budget and skill level. I get good images in low light conditions through to direct sunlight. I can crop and adjust my images with ease. I'm a real fan of android and link to my google account for storage and much more.

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