Christopher Taylor Bird Nature Wildlife Mammal Photography
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Little Spotted Kiwi Picture

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The Little Spotted Kiwi or Little Gray Kiwi, Apteryx owenii, is a small species of kiwi originally from New Zealand's South Island (what is known is they used to live near Marlborough and where Tokoeka currently live) that, around 1890 and 1910 was captured (for conservation purposes) and later released on Kapiti Island. Little Spotted Kiwis are the smallest species of kiwi, at about .9"?1.9 kg (2.0"?4.2 lb), about the size of a bantam.


The Little spotted kiwi is a ratite and belongs to the Apterygiormes Order, and the Apterygidae Family. Their binomial name Apteryx owenii breaks down to without wings and owenii which is named after Sir Richard Owen. Today, only the nominate subspecies Apteryx owenii owenii exists. The little-known and somewhat mysterious North Island Little Spotted Kiwi Apteryx owenii iredalei from the North Island went extinct in the late 19th century.


The Little Spotted Kiwi has a length of 35"?45 cm (14"?18 in) and the weight of the male is .9"?1.3 kg (2.0"?2.9 lb) and the female weighs 1"?1.9 kg (2.2"?4.2 lb). They feathers are pale-mottled gray, with fine white mottling, and are shaggy looking. They lack aftershafts and barbules. They have large vibrissae feathers around the gape. They lack a tail, but have a small pygostyle. Their bill is ivory and long and their legs are pale.

Range and habitat

After they were released on Kapiti Island, they were also moved to Red Mercury Island, Hen Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island, and Long Island in the Queen Charlotte Sound. In 2000, about 20 Little Spotted Kiwis were released in to Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. This was the first time since about 1900 that Little Spotted Kiwis could be found on the North or South Islands. Studies on Kapiti Island show that they prefer flax, seral, and older forest. Lower numbers in rough grassland and scrub show that they aren't as fond or need more space in these areas.


The little spotted kiwi tends to eat grubs and other small insects that like to burrow far into the ground, and also will eat certain types of fruit. Hence the sharp talons and long beak, it digs into the ground with its talons then shoves its long beak down the soft ground. Since they can't fly to get to insects or food on trees and their eyesight is very poor they depend on a keen sense of smell, long beak and talons.


They nest in an excavated burrow, dug by both birds and sometimes line the nest with plant material. The clutch size is one to two eggs (15% have 2), and are incubated by the male for a period of 63-76 days. After hatching they stay in the nest for 2-3 weeks and require feeding for 4 weeks. The largest egg in comparison with the size of the bird is laid by the Little Spotted Kiwi. Its egg accounts for 26 percent of its own weight"?the equivalent of a human woman giving birth to a six year old child.

Human interaction

The little spotted Kiwi was first described in 1847 by John Gould from a specimen obtained by F. Strang. The locality is not recorded but probably it came from Nelson or Marlborough. In 1873, Henry Potts published an account of its habits and about this time specimens were collected in South Westland and sent to England. At that time the species was common on the western side of the South Island and in Marlborough. Then a regular trade in skins sprang up and large numbers were collected for European museums. Further, with the advance of European settlement, birds were killed by prospectors and others for food and their attendant dogs and cats took their toll on this, the smallest of the Kiwis.


As the smallest species of kiwi, the Little Spotted Kiwi would be an ideal meal for main kiwi predators like cats, dogs, and stoats, however the Little Spotted Kiwi lives on several off-shore islands (mainly Kapiti Island). The Little Spotted Kiwi's conservation status is listed as 'Range Restricted' (by 'Save The Kiwi'), with a growing population. Formerly classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, it was suspected to be more numerous than generally assumed. Following the evaluation of its population size, this was found to be correct, and it is consequently downlisted to Near Threatened status in 2008 as it is not a particularly rare bird but its small range puts it at risk. The lack of predators on its islands is important to its increasing numbers, although Weka, Gallirallus australis, seems to bo on Kapiti Island. It has an occurrence range of 31 km2 (12 sq mi), with a population of 1150, which was estimated in 2000. These 1150 are divided amongst it's islands as thus:

  • Kapiti Island 1000
  • Hen Island 50
  • Tiritiri Matangi 15
  • Red Mercury Island 30
  • Long Island 10
  • in captivity 10
  • Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington 35
  • Motuihe Island 9


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All images and video © Copyright 2006-2016 Christopher Taylor, Content and maps by their respective owner. All rights reserved.
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