Kakī/Black Stilt

Common name(s) Black Stilt/Kakī

Scientific name Himantopus novaezelandiae

Threat classification Threatened- nationally critical

Species profile

Black Stilt/Kakī are medium sized wading birds with long red legs, long dark bills and red eyes, that inhabit some of the braided rivers of the Mackenzie Basin. Although adults are completely black, juveniles can be easily confused with their cousins, the Pied Stilt/poaka which are found throughout mainland New Zealand.
Once widespread, the black stilt/kakī numbers were reduced to only 4 breeding pairs in the 1980s. Since then they have been intensively managed in order to ensure the survival of this unique New Zealand species.


Black stilt were once found throughout New Zealand but due to habitat loss and the arrival of the pied stilt from Australia, their range is now confined to the Mackenzie Basin, in the areas between Lake Tekapo and the Pukaki Basins in the north, and the Ahuriri River in the south.


The biggest challenge with managing black stilt in captivity is ensuring the health and wellbeing of these delicate birds. Long bills and legs make them prone to injuries, so measures have been undertaken to reduce risks. For example, the use of soft nylon aviary mesh, pest control and minimising disturbance.
Mammalian predators form the biggest threat for kakī in the wild, including human destruction of the natural habitat. Braided rivers are a complex ecosystem which have suffered a lot in the past decades due to intensive farming and introduced pest species.

ICWT contribution to breeding programme

ICWT has been involved in this programme since the early 1990’s. Historically a number of breeding pairs have been held, but over the past few years a change in strategy has led to a reduction in breeding pairs in exchange for an increase in holding space for juveniles. This change in strategy is due to the marked increase in the wild population, reducing the importance of holding many captive pairs, as most eggs can be collected from wild nests. The majority of eggs are hatched at the DOC captive breeding facility in Twizel, and the juveniles are transferred to the trust at approximately one month old. They are then held for the next 8-9 months in the 10 holding aviaries available on site before being released.

Future Aspirations

Same as current strategy, to continue to support the recovery programme by holding and preparing a number of juveniles for release.


• Department Of Conservation – Species management