Lives of Northland brown kiwi are being cut short by dogs

Dogs are the number one predator of Northland's brown kiwi and one of the reasons the bird's average lifespan there is only 13 years when it could be up to 60, a conservation organisation says.

Kiwi Coast is a collaborative initiative that links over 160 community-led conservation projects, iwi, hapū, schools, forestry companies and organisations to help native wildlife thrive and increase Northland kiwi numbers.

One of the organisation's three coordinators, Ngaire Sullivan, told Nathan Rarere on First Up that stoats will kill 95 percent of kiwi chicks before they have their first birthday.

But she said dogs are the number one problem for Northland brown kiwi.

"Northland brown kiwi should live for 50 to 60 years but in Northland research has shown that the average lifespan of a kiwi has been reduced to just 13 years, so gosh we're missing out on over 40 years of each kiwi's life."

She said potentially a Northland brown kiwi can produce a couple of nests a year and have around four chicks, so losing that number of kiwi over 40 years is quite a loss.

Sullivan said it's important to remind people that kiwi in Northland can be anywhere, not just in native forests, with some even appearing in people's backyards.

"So sometimes visitors come to Northland, they have no idea we've got kiwi just literally running around the place and so they go 'oh here's a nice spot', it's a pine forest, 'my dog will be free to run in here, this looks not like your ancient forest type sanctuary spot'."

But she said kiwi love pine forests, as well as pampas bushes, gorse, scrub, wetlands and dunes.

"If you want to look after kiwis, you come to Northland and you bring a dog, bring your lead, walk your dog on a lead because kiwi seem to have an irresistible smell to dogs and I've heard it said that dogs can smell kiwi from 100 metres away."

She said you might not see the kiwi but your dog will smell it and want to go and investigate what is there.

Kiwi sponsorship

A small number of Northland kiwi have radio transmitters attached to their legs so their daily lives can be monitored, Sullivan said.

"So we can follow their adventures, we know during the drought that they were coming out during the day, we can tell when they're nesting, when the dad's staying at home and sitting on the eggs."

She said the Follow a Kiwi programme enables people to follow the lives of kiwi on the Tutukata Coast.

"We're currently following a bachelor guy called called Harry who's just hanging out in a pine forest next to a swamp just getting fat.

"We're also following Marohi, oh he's a super dad, he produced, oh I can't remember how many kiwi chicks over the last few years - he's just so good at incubating and hatching and breeding those little kiwi chicks."

People wanting to follow a kiwi can become a kiwi sponsor for $10 a month, which means they will get monthly updates about the kiwi that are being tracked.