New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1996) 20(1): 27- 35

Role of predation in the decline of kiwi, Apteryx spp, in New Zealand

Research Article
J. A. McLennan 1
M. A. Potter 2
H. A. Robertson 3
G. C. Wake 4
R. Colbourne 3
L. Dew 1
L. Joyce 5
A. J. McCann 1
J. Miles 1
P. J. Miller 3
J. Reid 5
  1. Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research New Zealand, Private Bag 1403, Havelock North, New Zealand
  2. Department of Ecology, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  3. Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 10420, Wellington, New Zealand
  4. Mathematics Department, Division of Science and Technology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92-019, Auckland, New Zealand
  5. Department of Conservation, West Coast Conservancy, Private Bag 701, Hokitika, New Zealand

Kiwi have declined markedly in abundance and range since human settlement of New Zealand. Three of the four species are still extant in mainland forests, despite decades of co-existence with various introduced mammals. Little spotted kiwi is now probably confined to offshore islands. The role of introduced mammals in these population declines was evaluated by measuring the survival rates of adults, eggs and chicks of brown kiwi (A. mantelli) and great spotted kiwi (A. haastii) in mainland forests. Mortality rates of adults ranged from 5%-16% and did not differ significantly between species or sexes. Overall, 14 out of 209 adult kiwi died during 159.6 radio-tracking years. Predators definitely caused five of these deaths. Sixty-nine (68%) of 102 eggs from 77 nesting attempts by 48 pairs failed to hatch. Predators probably caused about 10% of egg failures. Only three of 49 chicks probably survived to adulthood, indicating a juvenile mortality rate of about 94%. Predators killed at least 8% of chicks, 45% of juveniles, and possibly as many as 60% of all young kiwi. Ferrets and dogs were the main predators of adult kiwi, possums and mustelids were the main egg predators, while stoats and cats were largely responsible for the deaths of young kiwi. Population models show that northern brown kiwi are currently declining at 5.8% per annum. This decline could be halted by cutting the current predation rates on young kiwi by about 34% to 33%.