Kiwi birds are a national treasure. These flightless nocturnal birds can only be found in New Zealand and are such a national icon that the term Kiwi has even become the nickname of the people of this country. Not only can they not fly, they are particularly vulnerable to predators due to having an underdeveloped skeletal structure. That’s why their populations are low; in fact, an average of 27 Kiwis are killed by predators each week, so it’s no secret that they can be hard to find! Kiwi birds are often referred to as ‘honorary mammals’ due to their odd burrowing habits, large eggs and fur-like coat, which makes them so unusual.
We’ve gathered a list of where to see a Kiwi in New Zealand, including places to see Kiwis in the wild as well as the best tours for you to book.
1. Stewart Island
Stewart Island is one of the best places to see a kiwi in the wild. Rakiura National Park accounts for 85% of Stewart Island's area, and with a population of approximately 450 people on the island, it’s a kiwi’s paradise when the sun goes down. The Stewart Island Brown Kiwi can be found at night (if you’re quiet enough) or through booking a Kiwi encounter tour. While searching for kiwis is a nighttime activity, there are plenty of daytime activities on Stewart Island for the outdoor enthusiast, including bay tours and walking tracks around the island.
2. Kiwi Birdlife Park
The Kiwi Birdlife Park is another place where you can see a kiwi in New Zealand. Located in Queenstown, their breeding programme releases kiwis into the wild when they are able to protect themselves from predators. This five-acre park situated approximately a 10-minute walk away from the city centre is the home to over 20 species of native wildlife. This protected area offers the chance to see kiwi feedings, conservation shows, audio tours and nocturnal houses (so the kiwis will come out during the day).
3. Franz Josef Wildlife Centre
Located near popular glaciers on the West Coast of the South Island, the Franz Josef Wildlife Centre offers a self-guided indoor tour. This centre is particularly unique due to having two of the rarest breeds of kiwi: the Rowi and Haast Tokoeka kiwis, each of which only have approximately 350 birds remaining in the world. This centre offers an indoor bush walk as well as a glacier attraction so you can learn about both the kiwis and the local glaciers. If you want to get up close and personal, Franz Josef Wildlife Centre also offers backstage passes to view the incubation centre for baby kiwis and tuataras.
4. The National Kiwi Centre
The National Kiwi Centre in Hokitika is home to the Rowi kiwi, the Haast Tokoeka and the Great Spotted Kiwi. Famous for its beaches and creative studios, Hokitika is known for its surroundings of beech forests and abundance of wildlife. In this centre, three out of the five breeds of Kiwis are incubated and hatched. After that, they’re taken to a safe island where they can grow to maturity without predators around.
5. Orana Wildlife Park
The garden city of New Zealand is home to Orana Wildlife Park, where a breeding and recovery programme is run to try increase the population of our national bird. Furthermore, feeding happens at 1:30pm daily in their nocturnal Kiwi House, which is open to the public during opening hours.
6. Trounson Kauri Park
Trounson Kauri Park on the North Island offers guided night tours (after dark) to get the best opportunity to see a North Island brown kiwi outside of captivity. This 586-hectare forest reserve has the highest number of North Island brown kiwis found in Northland, making this location a must-see if you’re wanting to spot one of our national birds. Furthermore, there’s a variety of other threatened native animals, such as the kūkupa (New Zealand pigeon), pekapeka (bats) and kauri snails.
7. Whangarei Bird Recovery Centre
Found in the northernmost city in New Zealand, the Whangarei Bird Recovery Centre allows injured birds the chance to rehabilitate their injuries before being released into the wild again. They also run educational programmes and visit schools to spread greater education about conservation and sustainability. Over 60% of birds admitted are successfully released back into the wild, and if you’re lucky, you might even see Sparky, the one-legged kiwi bird who is a permanent resident of the centre!
8. Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park
Claiming the title as 'Kiwiana' capital of the world, Otorohanga is located on the North Island of New Zealand and celebrates everything that makes New Zealanders ‘Kiwi,’ from the Haka to bungy jumping. The Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park offers the chance for people to see our national bird in an artificial night environment so they’re active (as they’re nocturnal birds). Furthermore, keepers run daily presentations about different animals, and you can even feed some animals like the kaka (native forest parrot) or even our native long fin eel!
9. Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari
This sanctuary is particularly special; they have a pest-proof fence to keep predators such as stoats and possums out and allows our native animals and fauna to flourish. Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari offer both day entry passes and guided tour passes, including an evening tour where you might spot a Western North Island Brown Kiwi. With approximately 100 kiwis being released into the sanctuary per year and fewer predators around, this is a must-see place for anybody around the area wanting to see New Zealand’s untouched forests.
10. Rainbow Springs Nature Park
Found in the North Island in a town called Rotorua, which is well-known for its geothermal activity, ‘eggy’ smell and Maori culture, Rainbow Springs Nature Park is the largest kiwi hatchery in the world. They offer a range of tours for the public to experience native wildlife, including kiwi hatchery tours. With the opportunity to see a kiwi chick in person, sponsor a kiwi, take a ride on their ‘Big Splash’ and a café for lunch, this nature park has something everyone can enjoy.
Have you visited any of these places before? If so, were you lucky enough to see a kiwi? Let us know where you’ve seen kiwis in New Zealand!