Birds are important to us New Zealanders: we get excited about rare sightings in our cities, we love the sound of birdsong in the morning and we spend millions of dollars every year on conservation to ensure their survival.
We even name ourselves after one of the quirkier species!
It’s not surprising, then, that so many of us take the time to vote for our favourite feathered friend in the annual Bird of the Year contest when thousands of Kiwis (the human kind) go online to plump for their preferred avian.
Fiordland Crested Penguins explore the end of the Hollyford Track. Photo / Ngai Tahu Tourism
“We love seeing the passion and creativity that our native birds inspire,” said Nicola Toki, chief executive of Forest & Bird, organisers of the contest.
“Every year, we’re surprised and delighted by the birdy shenanigans and heartwarming kōrero that stem from Bird of the Year.”
This year, however, the competition is soaring to new heights as Forest & Bird celebrates its 100th birthday and the Bird of the Year is temporarily rebranded as Bird of the Century.
A kea in flight in the Arthur's Pass National Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The kākāpō currently has bragging rights having been chosen twice for the crown in the competition’s 18-year history. And, in addition to past winner such as tūī (2005), kiwi (2009), New Zealand falcon (2012) and the rock wren (2022), five extinct species have been added to the roll: the mātuhituhi bush wren, tutukiwi South Island snipe, huia, piopio, and whēkau laughing owl.
“The five extinct birds in this year’s competition are a heartbreaking reminder of the beautiful birds we’ve lost,” said Toki.
An 18-day-old morepork (ruru) chick. Photo / Alan Gibson
“Eighty-two per cent of our living native bird species are threatened or at risk of extinction. We cannot let any more end up with the tragic fate of the laughing owl or the huia.”
Seventy-seven native manu are in the running for the coveted title of Te Manu Rongonui o Te Rautau / Bird of the Century 2023. Voting starts at 9am, October 30 and runs for two weeks, and you can vote for up to five birds.
This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you