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Brown Kiwi (Common Kiwi)

The bird that looks like a mammal

Order: Apterygiformes

Family: Apterygidae

Genus & Species: Apteryx australis

Subspecies: Apteryx australis australis (Okarito Brown Kiwi)
Apteryx australis mantelli (North Island Brown Kiwi)


The brown kiwi is such a strange sight that at first glance it doesn't look like a bird! They are the size of a domestic fowl and measure 14 in. in height and 20 in. in length. They weigh about 5 pounds, although the females are 20% heavier. They lack tail feathers and have a wingspan of 2 in. These wings are useless, making the kiwi the smallest flightless bird. Brown kiwis are grey-brown in colour with stubby, course feathers densely covering the round body. There are three toes on each foot. The legs are stout and short. The beak is long and has sensitive nostrils on its tip. Hairs around the bill help them find food in the dark. The ears are large and the eyes are small and acute. The male's call is thin and reedy; the female's call is hoarse. Their call sounds like "k-wee" and is where they get their name. There are two subspecies of the brown kiwi: the North Island brown kiwi and the Okarito (South Island) brown kiwi.


Brown kiwis inhabit the kauri pine forests of South Island, Stewart Island, and parts of North Island in New Zealand. The Okarito brown kiwi lives on South Island. The North Island brown kiwi has three distinct populations on Northland, King Country, Taranaki, Wanganui and Bay of Plenty, East Coast, and Hawkes Bay, all located on North Island. Brown kiwis spend their days in burrows or under tree roots and come out at night to feed.


Brown kiwis feed on worms, berries, insects, leaves, reptiles, and amphibians. They locate their food by scratching through the dead leaves with their claws or by probing the ground with their bill.


The early Maori settlers of New Zealand considered the brown kiwi a delicacy. They were hunted for food and for their feathers, which were used in the chieftain's cloaks. Animals such as dogs, cats, stoats, weasels, and other animals introduced to New Zealand are their main enemies. Rats and ferrets will eat their eggs. The destruction of forests has depleted their homeland. The Okarito brown kiwi is endangered and the North Island brown kiwi population has declined due to roller crushing and bush fires.


Brown kiwis live in pairs. They probably reach sexual maturity at 2 years of age. The laying season is from July-February. The female lays 1-2 creamy white eggs that weigh 1 pound and are 5 in. long. The incubation period is 80 days, the longest of any known bird. The male incubates them. If the female is going to lay 2 eggs, she will lay them 1 month apart. The chicks are born open-eyed and fully feathered. They stay in the nest for 6 days without being fed and then leave the nest to hunt for themselves.


The brown kiwi has two subspecies and is related to the two other species of kiwi: the great spotted or large grey kiwi and the little spotted or little grey kiwi.