Over a dozen of the rare Haast Tokoeka kiwi have been found on the South Island's West Coast and they could be crucial for breeding programmes.
The shy mountain loving birds are one of five kiwi species and were not what the Department of Conservation (DOC) expected to find.
Senior DOC ranger Inge Bolt told 1 NEWS the discovery of the birds "was beyond our wildest dreams".
After listening to recordings from their national monitoring program, DOC staff heard a particular kiwi call and headed straight into the remote West Coast mountain range.
"It was super exciting, and this was amazing because we didn’t know if we were going to find any kiwi at all."
These critically endangered Haast birds are the rarest type but this new discovery brings their population up to five per cent, 475 birds in total.
Minister for Conservation Eugenie Sage says there will be close work with Ngai Tahi to work out the best steps to protect them.
Six out of the 16 found kiwi have been fitted with radio transmitters and rangers hope to continue to make greater discoveries.