Family New Zealand Wrens (Acanthisittidae)


New Zealand Rockwren (Xenicus gilviventris)


French: Xénique des rochers German: Felsenstummelschwanz Spanish: Acantisita roquero
Other common names: Alpine Rockwren, South Island Wren

Xenicus gilviventris


, 1867,

mountains of South Island, New Zealand


Plumage appears to vary clinally, males becoming brighter from N to S; supposedly smaller, more greenish birds in S (Fiordland) described as race rineyi, but now considered only a bright morph. Monotypic.


Mountain areas of South I, New Zealand.

Descriptive notes

c. 9·5 cm; male 16 g, female 20 g. Small passerine with rounded wings, very short tail, pale supercilium and fine bill; legs and toes long, feet almost half length of... read more


Small repertoire of simple calls, high-pitched and penetrating; main calls a 3-note “tzee-... read more


Low shrubs, open scree and rockfalls in alpine and subalpine habitats; often in areas with... read more

Food and feeding

Predominantly insectivorous. Takes wide variety of small arthropods, e.g. coleopterans, orthopterans, dipterans, springtails (Collembola),... read more


Season Sept–Jan. Monogamous; long-term pair-bond. Nest built by both sexes, cigar-shaped or spherical, tiny entrance hole at end or... read more


Resident. Apparently sedentary; no evidence for suggested movement to lower elevations during... read more

Status and conservation

ENDANGERED. Restricted-range species: present in South Island of New Zealand EBA. Has rather fragmented distribution, from NW Nelson S to Fiordland, but uncommon, even in... read more

Recommended citation

Gill, B. & Sharpe, C.J. (2019). New Zealand Rockwren (Xenicus gilviventris). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 March 2019).