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As our national icon, the kiwi is a must-see for any traveller to New Zealand. Sadly, these wonderful flightless birds are endangered, threatened by animals that were introduced to the country when it was colonised. The good news is that us Kiwis do love our kiwis, and there are many sanctuaries and conservation projects that have been set up to protect the birds. Currently there’s about 70000 left in the country.
You are more likely to see a kiwi in captivity than in the wild, particularly because they are nocturnal (and shy!). Here are a few places to find kiwis whilst visiting Rotorua and the North Island.
Rainbow Springs joined the "Operation Nest Egg" breeding programme in 1995 and are now the leading kiwi hatchery in the country. There are “behind the scenes” tours every hour but we recommend keeping your ticket and coming back in the evening to see kiwi in the open air aviary – they come out around 8.30pm.
Te Puia, Rotorua
There are live kiwis living in the grounds of Te Puia, which also has a breeding programme. Visit the specially lit nocturnal kiwi house to see some of the birds. Once they reach maturity they are moved to the outdoor enclosures to breed.
An hour and half drive from Rotorua and close to the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves, the Otorohanga Kiwi House is well worth a stop. They have been looking after kiwis since the early 70s. Home to New Zealand’s largest dome aviary, they also have tuataras, a native reptile that pre-dated the dinosaurs. Otorohanga town is also home to a few giant kiwi sculptures!
If you make it down to our capital city Wellington, check out Zealandia, an amazing eco-sanctuary that is home to some of NZ’s rarest wildlife. The best time to see kiwi is on a night tour – these depart 30 minutes before sunset and allow you to glimpse kiwi in a natural environment. If you can’t visit at night, kiwis are also kept in captivity at Wellington Zoo.
For a full list of places to see kiwis in New Zealand, check out the website Kiwisforkiwi.org.