Archived 2014 discussion: Northern Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) is being split: list both A. mantelli and A. rowi as Endangered?

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for non-passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Northern Brown Kiwi Apteryx mantelli is being split into A. mantelli and A. rowi, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, A. mantelli (BirdLife species factsheet) was listed as Endangered under criteria A2bce+3bce+4bce because, although mainland populations of this species were thought to be in extremely rapid decline (at least 80% over 26 years [estimate of three generations]), based on annual survey results and the known impacts of threats, the overall rate of population decline was thought to be very rapid (50-79% over 26 years) owing to the stability of island populations and intensive predator control in some mainland populations.

A. rowi is known only from Okarito Forest, on the west coast of South Island, New Zealand, where it is restricted to c.10,000 ha of coastal podocarp-hardwood forest between the Okarito River to the north and Waiho River to the south (Tennyson et al. 2003). The species’s pre-human range is not known. It is suggested that it be listed as Endangered under criterion D, on the basis that it has an extremely small population, probably including fewer than 250 mature individuals, as it has been estimated that there are 150-200 individuals (Tennyson et al. 2003) and more recently 300 individuals (Holzapfel et al. 2008), and the population is thought to be increasing (Miskelly et al. 2008, who, along with Hitchmough et al. 2007, list the taxon as Critical at the national level under modified criteria).

A. mantelli (as defined following the taxonomic change) exists in fragmented and isolated populations on North Island and adjacent islands, New Zealand. It favours dense, subtropical and temperate forests, but also occurs in shrublands, scrub, regenerating forest, exotic pine plantations and pasture (Marchant and Higgins 1990). It is suggested that this species be listed as Endangered on the same basis as the listing of the pre-split species, that is under criteria A2bce+3bce+4bce, because mainland populations of this species may be decreasing extremely rapidly, based on annual declines, predation and loss of habitat. However, owing to the stability of island populations, and intensive predator control in some mainland populations, the overall decline is likely to be slower, but still very rapid (50-79% over 26 years).

Comments on these suggested categories and further information would be welcomed.


Hitchmough, R., Bull, L. and Cromarty, P. (2007) New Zealand Threat Classification System lists 2005. Wellington, New Zealand: Science & Technical Publishing, Department of Conservation.

Holzapfel, S., Robertson, H. A., McLennan, J. A., Sporle, W., Hackwell, K. and Impey, M. (2008) Kiwi (Apteryx spp.) recovery plan: 2008–2018. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Conservation.

Marchant, S. and Higgins, P. J. (1990) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 1: ratites to ducks. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Miskelly, C. M., Dowding, J. E., Elliott, G. P., Hitchmough, R. A., Powlesland, R. G., Robertson, H. A., Sagar, P. M., Scofield, R. P. and Taylor, G. E. (2008) Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2008. Notornis 55(3): 117–135.

Tennyson, A. J. D., Palma, R. L., Robertson, H. A., Worthy, T. H. and Gill, B. J. (2003) A new species of kiwi (Aves, Apterygiformes) from Okarito, New Zealand. Records of the Auckland Museum 40: 55–64.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

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4 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Northern Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) is being split: list both A. mantelli and A. rowi as Endangered?

  1. Hugh Robertson says:

    The split between these two species is widely accepted in New Zealand (e.g. Holzapfel et al (2008) and Gill et al. 2010. Checklist of the Birds of NZ) and is based on genetics, morphology and behaviour. The former distribution of Rowi is known, and extended north as far as Lake Poukawa, Hawkes Bay, in the lower eastern North Island (Sheppard & Lambert 2008 Molecular Ecology 17; 2174-2184). Robertson et al 2013 (Conservation status of NZ birds, 2012: NZ Threat Classification Series #4, Wellington: Department of Conservation) regarded Rowi as nationally critical, with 50% decline in 3 genertation would fit the IUCN Endangered criteria: A2abce+3bce+4abce (with direct observation (a) added due to numerous radio-tracking studies and allied population modelling giving good information on population parameters, except that most studied populations are under some form of effective conservation management). Rowi is correctly classified as Endangered, under criterion D (<250 mature individuals, if mature but perhaps scenescent (at least consistently non-breeding) individuals are excluded).

  2. Jennifer Germano says:

    As leader of the New Zealand Department of Conservation’s Kiwi Recovery Group, I would like to support the comments made above. Apteryx rowi and A. mantelli are and have been recognized as separate species for some time now. These species face different obstacles in the wild and are managed accordingly. Recognition of this split and classification of both species as Endangered would be appropriate and would correctly update the current IUCN Redlist listings for kiwi.

  3. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    A. mantelli as Endangered under criteria A2bce+3bce+4bce

    A. rowi as Endangered under criterion D

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  4. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of these species.

    The final categorisations will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.