Great Spotted Kiwi

Great Spotted Kiwi

Great grey kiwi, Roroa, Great spotted kiwi, Great grey kiwi, Roroa

4 languages
Apteryx haastii
Population size
Life Span
30-40 yrs
1.2-3 kg
45-50 cm
44-55 cm

The great spotted kiwi, great grey kiwi or roroa (Apteryx haastii ) is a species of kiwi endemic to the South Island of New Zealand. The great spotted kiwi, as a member of the ratites, is flightless. It is the largest of the kiwi. The rugged topography and harsh climate of the high altitude alpine part of its habitat render it inhospitable to a number of introduced mammalian predators, which include dogs, ferrets, cats, and stoats. Because of this, populations of this species have been less seriously affected by the predations of these invasive species compared to other kiwi. Nonetheless, there has been a 43% decline in population in the past 45 years, due to these predators and habitat destruction. This has led it to be classified as vulnerable. There are less than 16,000 great spotted kiwis in total, almost all in the more mountainous parts of northwest Nelson, the northwest coast, and the Southern Alps. A minority live on island reserves.

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This kiwi is highly aggressive, and pairs will defend their large territories against other kiwi. Great spotted kiwi are nocturnal, and will sleep during the day in burrows. At night, they feed on invertebrates and will also eat plants. Great spotted kiwi breed between June and March. The egg is the largest of all birds in proportion to the size of the bird. Chicks take 75 to 85 days to hatch, and after hatching, they are abandoned by their parents.

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Flightless bird










Island endemic






Generally solitary


Not a migrant


starts with


The Great spotted kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand. It is the largest of the kiwis. The eyes of this bird are small and do not see well, as it relies mostly on its sense of smell. The legs are short, with three toes per foot. It has a plumage composed of soft, hair-like feathers, which have no aftershafts. The plumage can range from charcoal grey to light brown. The Great spotted kiwi has large whiskers around the gape, and it has no tail, only a small pygostyle. The common name of this bird comes from black spots on its feathers.



Great spotted kiwi are native to the South Island of New Zealand. They are present from northwestern Nelson to the Buller River, the northwest coast (Hurunui River to Arthur's Pass), and the Paparoa Range, as well as within the Lake Rotoiti Mainland Island. These birds live in tussock grasslands, scrubland, pasture, and forests.

Great Spotted Kiwi habitat map

Climate zones

Great Spotted Kiwi habitat map
Great Spotted Kiwi
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Habits and Lifestyle

Great spotted kiwi are generally solitary and can be seen in pairs only during the breeding season. These are highly aggressive birds; pairs defend their large territories against other kiwi and will call, chase, or fight intruders out. Great spotted kiwi are nocturnal and sleep during the day in burrows that they construct. Up to fifty burrows can exist in one bird's territory and they will often move around, staying in a different burrow every day. At night, they come out to feed. To find prey, the birds use their scenting skills or feel vibrations caused by the movement of their prey. To do the latter, a kiwi would stick its beak into the ground, and then use its beak to dig into the ground. Great spotted kiwi communicate with each other using growls, hisses, and bill snapping. Males have a call that resembles a warbling whistle, while females' call is harsh raspy, and also warbling.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Great spotted kiwi are omnivores. They eat earthworms, grubs, beetles, cicada, crickets, flies, weta, spiders, caterpillars, slugs and snails. These birds also consume fallen fruits, berries, and seeds.

Mating Habits

75-85 days
12 months
1 eggs

Great spotted kiwi are monogamous and form pairs that sometimes last up twenty years. The breeding season begins in June and ends in March, as this is when food is plentiful. Males chase females around until the females either run off or mate. Prior to egg-laying, there is a gestation period that lasts around 1 month. Because of the large size of the egg, gestation is uncomfortable for the female, and they do not move much. A single egg is laid in the burrow usually between August and January. The male incubates the egg while the female guards the nest. The male leaves the nest only for a few hours to hunt, and during this time, the female takes over. It takes 75 to 85 days for the egg to hatch. The chick is precocial; it hatches with eyes open and fully-feathered. Parents don't feed and don't take care of their offspring. After 10 days, the chick starts to come out of the burrow to hunt and will stay with its parents for around 12 months. Males usually reach reproductive maturity at 18 months in captivity, while females are able to lay eggs after 3 years.


Population threats

The Great spotted kiwi population started declining when European settlers first arrived in New Zealand. The main threat is from invasive predators including mustelids, brush-tailed possum, feral cats, dogs, and pigs. Humans have also endangered Great spotted kiwi; they destroyed their habitat by logging forests and building mines. Previously, humans hunted these birds for feathers and food.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Great spotted kiwi population size is around 15,000 individuals which is roughly equivalent to 14,500 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Great spotted kiwi disperse seeds throughout their habitat, thus playing a very important role in the ecosystem they live in.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Kiwi belong to the ratite family, which also includes the emu, ostrich, rhea, and cassowary.
  • Great spotted kiwi have tough, leathery skin and feathers like hair.
  • The Great spotted kiwi, along with the other kiwi species, is the only bird with nostrils at the end of its bill.
  • Great spotted kiwi have a good sense of smell, which is unusual in birds.
  • Great spotted kiwi use their powerful legs and claws for defense against predators such as stoats or ferrets.
  • Kiwi often swallow small stones, which help to digest food.
  • Great spotted kiwi produce the largest egg in proportion to the body. They can lay only one egg a year because it takes so much energy to produce such a massive egg. The yolk of their eggs takes up 65% of the egg while in most bird eggs, the yolk takes up about 35-40% of the egg.
  • When it's time to hatch, the Great spotted kiwi chick needs 2 to 3 days to make its way out of its egg.


1. Great Spotted Kiwi on Wikipedia -
2. Great Spotted Kiwi on The IUCN Red List site -
4. Xeno-canto bird call -

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