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Bird of the Year has been rocked by scandal on the first day of competition with someone making over a hundred fraudulent votes for the white-faced heron.

The issue was first brought to the attention of organisers by a scientist at Dragonfly Data Science who has been running a computer programme to track the votes.

“I’ve been running these programmes for real elections in the U.S., U.K., and here in New Zealand, so I thought why not do it for Bird of the Year? It’s really exciting to see the votes coming in at real-time” says Yvan Richard from Dragonfly Data Science in Wellington.

“I noticed there was a big spike for the white-faced heron at about midnight on the first day of voting, so I let Forest & Bird know” says Yvan Richard from Dragonfly Data Science.

White faced Heron

White faced Heron. Credit: Craig McKenzie

Upon further investigation, it was found that all 112 votes came from the same IP address, located somewhere in the Christchurch area.

“We’re not mad, just impressed that someone cares enough about New Zealand’s native birds to rig the competition.” says Bird of the Year Coordinator Kimberley Collins.

“I mean, we’re surprised they chose the white-faced heron and not one of the birds currently in the lead, but hey - each to their own!”

“We suspect their plan was to sneakily increase the heron’s numbers by a few hundred each night while we were all sleeping. Thank goodness Yvan was watching.”

Forest & Bird doesn’t expect the culprit to come forward, but hopes the weight of their conscience will prompt them to make a donation to an appeal to help protect native birds.

“Although the white-faced heron is doing ok, many of our native birds are in crisis. Sixty-eight per cent of our birds are in trouble and 1 in 3 are at risk of becoming extinct.”

The rules for Bird of the Year allow one vote per person, so all but one of the fraudulent votes have been discounted.

Forest & Bird has also taken every security precaution to ensure it does not happen again.

Bird of the Year is one of Forest & Bird’s most popular annual events. Now in its thirteenth year, it aims to raise awareness of New Zealand’s unique native birds and the threats they face by asking people to vote for their favourite species.

Voting closes on Monday the 23rd of October at 5pm.

People can vote for their favourite New Zealand bird at

Modelling programme graph

A graph from Yvan’s modelling programme shows the majority of fraudulent votes happened between midnight and 1am on the first day of voting and again at 11am the next day.

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