Meet Marama and Sketch at the Kiwi House

Kiwi are nocturnal flightless birds - and New Zealand’s national icon. At Te Puia, you can see kiwi up close at our Kiwi House and learn how we protect these extraordinary endangered birds.


There are five species of kiwi: brown kiwi, tokoeka, rowi, great spotted kiwi and little spotted kiwi. Our Te Puia kiwi are brown kiwi and they’re named Marama and Sketch.


Sketch hatched at Kiwi Encounter in December 2014 while Marama (which means moon) hatched at Otorohanga Kiwihouse in September 2014.


Viewing Marama and Sketch

Because kiwi are nocturnal and sensitive to light and movement, the Kiwi House is kept in darkness, enabling our precious birds to live more naturally.


Manuhiri (visitors) will be able to catch a glimpse of Marama in her natural habitat once their eyes adjust to the darkness, or via special cameras mounted in her burrow.


Te Puia kiwi house supervisor, Mariana Te Rangi says the special infrared cameras capture ‘behind the scenes’ footage so manuhiri get the best possible kiwi experience.


“Whether in her burrow or not, manuhiri can see Marama preening herself and moving about the enclosure.


“Sometimes she can be tricky to spot, however, to enable Marama to exhibit more natural behaviours, it’s important we keep the Kiwi House in darkness.”


Living arrangements

Marama and Sketch are currently housed separately at the Kiwi House, but will shortly be reunited in the coming weeks for potential breeding.


Mariana says it would’ve been dangerous for Marama to start breeding when she was not fully developed. Now that she is of mature age, we can begin to pair them together.


“We’re certainly hoping Marama and Sketch will breed in the future.


“We’re also preparing for the arrival of two new chicks from Otorohanga and will introduce them to manuhiri once they arrive.”


Maintaining a natural environment

Te Puia holds high standards of husbandry including enrichment plans, the breeding of mealworms as a nutritious and sustainable way to feed the birds, and much more.


Mariana says live food is cherished by our kiwi - it is as much about health and nutrition as it is about enrichment – Marama and Sketch are enjoying hunting for their food and digging up the worms, mimicking wild behaviour.


“Introducing things like rotten logs filled with huhu grubs and other insects provides a stimulating environment, allowing the kiwi to have slightly more choice over their surroundings, which all enhances their wellbeing.”


Te Puia’s role

In keeping with the Māori tradition of respecting nature, the Kiwi House team ensures that its birds have virtually no human contact unless for health checks.


Mariana says conservation is our priority at Te Puia and as kaitiaki (guardians) since 1976, our role is to provide a safe, natural place for our national taonga (treasure) and nurture gently from afar.


Kiwi fast facts:

  • Kiwi are nocturnal and are sensitive to light and movement
  • Years ago, there were about 12 million kiwi, but today there are fewer than 100,000
  • The name “kiwi” is an imitation of the sound the bird makes when it calls during the night
  • Kiwi mate for life and will only take another partner should he/she pass away
  • Kiwi lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world
  • The kiwi has always been held in high esteem by Māori, kiwi feather cloaks being a sign of chieftainship
  • The kiwi has become a national symbol for New Zealand, the term Kiwi is used all over the world as the name for New Zealanders