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Brown kiwi research programme

The Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Group at Massey University has the longest running research programme on kiwi in New Zealand, outside the Department of Conservation. 

Our research

In 2003 we developed a long-term programme to study brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) on an Island (1770 ha).  This programme aims to study several aspects of brown brown kiwi biology and behaviour, and their relationship with predators and competitors which can be used to improve the conservation status of this New Zealand icon. Our study site offers a unique location for this programme because brown kiwi are very dense there. Although all the projects in the programme are discrete in their objectives and methodology, they are all pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle. Our intention is to broaden our research into other kiwi species.

Kiwi Whakapapa Project

The project is in collaboration with the Hapu Te Patukeha and Ngati Kuta in the Bay of Islands.

The kiwi whakapapa project has two studies. One is the landscape genetics of kiwi in Northland that will give information regarding the current status of all populations and how they relate with one another. This will allow us to learn about how to proceed with translocations and how to maintain the diversity we currently have or even improve it. This project is the core of Angelia Hura's PhD (Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Kahungunu).

The second project, is the focus of Malin Undin's PhD, who whakapapa to Jämtland, Sweden. This project will allow us to examine what happens when you mix kiwi from the various taxons in the North Island which are considered brown kiwi but diverging (subspeciating?); this study will also look at samples from Ipipiri islands and will allow us to decide whether we can translocate birds more widely than we do as it will look at what happens to genetics after translocation. Malin’s study also examines whether we can infer age from telomere length.

Lower body anatomy of kiwi Project

In collaboration with Anick Abourachid and Paulin Provini of the Museum of Natural History in Paris, a study looking at lower body anatomy of kiwi, in particular the hips and legs to see whether their usual gate, and posture may be an adaptation to carrying the huge egg.

Kiwi Dog Eko

Kiwi dog Eko exhausted after a hot day in the field.

Kiwi in burrow

Kiwi in burrow

Outside the tokoeka burrow

Outside the tokoeka burrow, notice the huge entrance.

Students involved in this research

Current graduate students

Volunteers

Technicians

Kai mahi training

  • project leaders

  • Richard Witehira
  • Isabel Castro

    Kai mahi

  • Rana Rewha
  • Alvin Rewha
  • Teina Hook (RIP)
  • Rob McPherson
  • Wiri Henare

Richard Witehira and our kai mahi have been involved with Kaitiaki Wars on Maori TV!


Past postgraduate students

All of our past postgraduate students have gone on to great jobs.  Our graduates are sought-after and are making fantastic contributions in their respective fields. Click on the name of the student to see what they are up to.

PhD

Susan Jane Cunningham

2010

Tactile senses and foraging in birds, with emphasis on kiwi : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand.

Birgit Ziesemann

2011

The social organisation and mating system of the brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand.

Kerri Jo-Anne Morgan

2013

Coccidiosis in the kiwi (Apteryx spp.) : aspects of the pathology, epidemiology and parasite biology : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Veterinary Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Masters

Lee Mark Shapiro

2005

Diet overlap and potential competition between North Island brown kiwi chicks (Apteryx mantelli) and ship rats (Rattus rattus) for limited resources on Ponui Island, New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Ecology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Sian Reynolds

2013

The anatomy and histomorphology of the uropygial gland in New Zealand endemic species : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Zoology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Jessica Dawn Hiscox

2014

Can microbes be contributing to the decline of the North Island Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli)? : a thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Zoology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Alex Wilson

2014

The triumphs, challenges and failures of young North Island brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli): a study of behaviour, growth, dispersal and mortality : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Zoology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Thomas Dixon

2016

What they do in the shadows: Habitat utilisation and diet of Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) adults within a high density island population. : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Ecology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand.

Sponsor a kiwi

Please help us continue our research by contributing to the cost of tracking our kiwi.  We spend $470 per kiwi each year on radio-transmitters. We also need radio-telemetry equipment, batteries, and cameras to be able to follow them.

We really need your help - without transmitters this programme would not be possible.

Sponsor now

 

 


'Attenborough's Big Birds' TV series

Sir David Attenborough's documentary 'Attenborough's Big Birds' (2015-2016) features Dr. Isabel Castro and kiwi from our study site. 

Given the high density of kiwi, and our research programme, our site was a perfect location to film the birds in their natural environment and show the world what the smallest of the big birds is like!

 


Wildbase Research

Isabel Castro is also a member of Massey University's Wildbase Research team. Wildbase Research promotes collaborative investigation and management of wildlife in support of the welfare and conservation of New Zealand native fauna.

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