Saturday 15 June
Rowi (Apteryx rowi)
Rowi fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Formerly considered a subspecies of the North Island brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli), the rowi is the most recently described kiwi, a group of iconic flightless birds from New Zealand (3). Evolving in the absence of mammals, these distinctive birds have adapted to a ground-dwelling life, with stout, powerful legs and a cryptic plumage of spiky, brown feathers. The breastbone, to which the flight muscles attach in other birds, has been lost, and the wings have become greatly reduced. External nostrils, uniquely positioned at the end of the long, curved bill, also provide kiwis with a highly developed sense of smell (4). The rowi is distinguished from other kiwis by a greyer colour, often with white patches around the face, and softer feathers (5).
- Also known as
- Okarito brown kiwi. Top
The Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi Trust:
The Department of Conservation:
- BirdLife International:
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
- Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
- Active at night.
- Concerned with the sense of smell.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
ITIS (March, 2010)
TerraNature (March, 2010)
Holzapfel, S.A., Robertson, H.A., McLennan, J.A., Sporle, W., Hackwell, K. and Impey, M. (2008) Kiwi (Apteryx spp.) recovery plan 2008-2018. Threatened Species Recovery Plan No. 60. Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai, Wellington, New Zealand. Available at:
- Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
The Department of Conservation (March, 2010)
- Murphy, E., Maddigan, F., Edwards, B. and Clapperton, K. (2008) Diet of stoats at Okarito kiwi sanctuary, South Westland, New Zealand. New ZealandJournal of Ecology, 32: 41-45.
- Sales, J. (2005) The endangered kiwi: a review. Folia Zoologica, 54: 1 - 20.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Kiwis are nocturnal birds, spending the day resting in burrows dug into the ground with powerful claws. Shortly after sunset, kiwis emerge to forage for insects, snails, spiders, earthworms and fallen fruits on the forest floor (3) (7). Insect prey is found by tapping and sniffing the ground, followed by plunging the long beak into the earth, stabbing back and forth to catch underground quarry. Food is subsequently picked up with the tip of the bill, and thrown to the back of the throat with quick jerks (4).
In common with other kiwis, the rowi is strictly monogamous, forming permanent pair bonds. Partners fiercely defend territories of around one square kilometre, using olfactory communication, vocal displays, and occasionally physical battles. The male in particular will vigorously repel strange birds, often inflicting wounds on the intruder (3) (4) (7).
The rowi breeds between June and February, with pairs commencing courtship displays of running and chasing, and loud grunting and snorting (4) (5). Usually a single, exceptionally large egg is laid, which may weigh as much as a quarter of the female’s weight, and both parents alternate incubation duties for some 65 to 90 days (4). During this time, the parents shed feathers from the breast, leaving a naked patch that is thought to help transfer heat to the egg. Once hatched, the well developed, fully feathered chicks venture out of the nest to feed themselves, becoming independent at two to seven weeks old. The juveniles grow slowly, taking three to five years to reach adult size, but once maturity is reached, survival in the rowi is exceptionally high, with a life expectancy of over 56 years and some birds living up to a remarkable 100 years old (2) (7).Top
Endemic to south Okarito forest in west South Island, New Zealand, the rowi has an extremely small range of only ten square kilometres (2) (5). Historically, the rowi was found across northern South Island and southern North Island, but it has probably been restricted to its present distribution since the late 1800s (3).Top
The rowi inhabits lowland evergreen coniferous forest, between sea level and 520 metres (6).Top
Thought to be Critically Endangered (3), but not yet officially classified by the IUCN.Top
Like all kiwis, the rowi has suffered from the destructive activities of human settlers on New Zealand. Hunting, habitat loss and predation by dogs were the likely agents of initial declines; however, the arrival of Europeans in the mid-1800s and subsequent introduction of mammalian predators, particularly stoats, accelerated the decline. Kiwis evolved on islands that lacked terrestrial predators and consequently are extremely vulnerable to predation (3). Predation by stoats is undoubtedly the major factor behind the recent declines in the rowi population, with stoats being responsible for at least half the deaths of rowi chicks, and only ten percent of chicks surviving to adulthood (3) (6). Consequently, the rowi population has crashed, reaching a critically low number of around 150 birds in the mid-1990s. Predation by stoats in Okarito forest is further complicated by fluctuations in the productivity of native tree species, with peaks in fruiting causing occasional plagues of stoats, hindering conservation efforts (2) (3). The rowi is further threatened by predation by cats and dogs, road collisions, and by introduced possums, which enter burrows to take eggs and chicks (5).Top
Kiwi conservation began in 1991, when the New Zealand Government’s Department of Conservation published the first kiwi recovery plan. Initial conservation measures focused on determining the status of each species and the reasons behind population declines. This was followed by intensive trapping efforts to remove predators and the establishment of five kiwi sanctuaries, including the Okarito sanctuary, which encompasses the rowi’s range (3). Operation Nest Egg was then developed, which began the removal of rowi eggs from the wild to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, where the chicks hatch and grow before being transferred to the predator-free island of Motuara. Once big enough to defend themselves from predators, the birds are then released back into Okarito forest and monitored through radio transmitters (5). As a direct result of these efforts, the rowi population has increased to around 250 and is predicted to increase to 600 by 2018 (3). Furthermore, public awareness and concern for the welfare of kiwis has increased substantially over recent years, and there is much hope that with the continuation and success of conservation efforts, the future of this charismatic bird will be secured (5).Top
Find out more
For more information on the conservation of the rowi, see:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.