Unlocking the Secrets of Little Spotted Kiwi

Helen Taylor with adult male little spotted kiwi wearing Sirtrack tagHelen Taylor with adult male little spotted kiwi wearing Sirtrack tagOver the past year, Sirtrack has been working with Helen Taylor, a PhD student at the Allan Wilson Centre at Victoria University of Wellington on her research into inbreeding and reproductive success in little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii).

The smallest of New Zealand’s five species of kiwi, little spots are also the second rarest with just 1,600 individuals remaining, all of which are descended from five individuals translocated to Kapiti Island in the early 1900s. This extreme bottleneck has resulted in very low genetic diversity in little spotted kiwi and it’s unclear what effect this and subsequent inbreeding might be having on the future survival prospects of this species.


Helen’s research involves tracking little spotted kiwi in two of the eight current populations, Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington and Long Island in the Marlborough Sounds, to determine their nesting success. Helen is using a version of the V2L 152A leg band transmitters that have been specially modified to carry a “chick timer” software program designed by Wildtech. As well as giving Helen information on the location of her birds, the chick timer software also outputs data on activity patterns, emergence times, incubation, hatching and abandonment.

Sirtrack will continue to work with Helen throughout her second field season as she builds a more complete picture of reproductive behaviour and nesting success rates in this nocturnal and cryptic species. When coupled with the genetic work that Helen is also carrying out, the transmitter data should provide valuable insight into what lies in store for the iconic little spotted kiwi.

Below is video footage of a male little spotted kiwi re-entering the nest wearing a Sirtrack transmitter.