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With a whoosh-whoosh, the kererū has swooped to glory for the first time, in Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition.

Kereru with a crown and septer

Amassing a total 5833 votes, the kererū, kūkūpa, or wood pigeon, as it is variously known, whooshed ahead early and managed to maintain a formidable lead to the finish despite strong challenges from the kākāpō and the kakī.  

The wood pigeon’s successful 2018 Bird of the Year campaign was led by a team of digital natives, including Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Their campaign focused on the bird’s size and appetite, kicking off a meme war over which native bird is the roundest.

“New Zealanders have voted overwhelmingly for change and the kererū pledges to honour this groundswell of popular opinion and govern for the many. Team kererū would like to thank the voting public for their support. It has been a long and arduous campaign and we couldn't have done without their support. We'd also like to thank Forest & Bird for running Bird of the Year, raising awareness for the plight of our native birds, and for their ongoing conservation work, and all the other campaign teams whose memes obviously weren't as dank - until next year.” says Team Kererū co-campaigner Tim Onnes.

While the kererū population is classed as stable overall, it is in danger of becoming locally extinct in some areas where there has not been sustained predator control. The fate of many forests is linked to that of the kererū, as it's the only native bird big enough to swallow and disperse the large fruit of karaka, miro, tawa and taraire.

Bird of the Year is run by conservation organisation Forest & Bird to raise awareness of New Zealand’s unique native birds and the threats they face.

This year’s Bird of the Year competition prompted celebrity endorsements from Stephen Fry for the kākāpō, and from comedian Bill Bailey for the takahē.

Bird of the Year also featured on Tinder for the first time, with Shelly the kakī, or black stilt, attracting 500 matches across New Zealand.

There was attempted international election fowl-play when IP addresses in Australia sent through over 300 votes for the shag, and then over 1500 for the kakī. However, these attempts were thwarted by Forest & Bird’s hawk-eyed election scrutineer at Dragonfly Data Science

The competition also showed that it transcends the generation divide, with pupils from Bethlehem School making a video in te reo Māori supporting the kakaruia, black robin, while a postal vote was submitted by an octogenarian who didn’t have a computer to vote online.

This year was the competition’s most popular yet. It attracted over 48,000 votes, up from 41,000 in 2017. Once again, Bird of the Year attracted worldwide coverage, with the competition featuring on The Guardian, CNN, and the Australian Daily Mail, among others.

Bird of the Year 2018 was supported certified B-Corp footwear company, Allbirds, who created a custom Wool and Tree Runner collection inspired by last year’s winner, the kea, with proceeds from the shoes going to Forest & Bird.

The competition was also supported by Heritage Expeditions, who raised funds to help Forest & Bird protect and restore New Zealand’s native birds and their homes.

Final results

Placing Bird Votes
1 Kererū 5833
2 Kākāpō 3772
3 Kakī (Black Stilt) 2995
4 Orange-fronted Parakeet (Kākāriki Karaka) 2452
5 Kea 1984
6 Fantail (Pīwakawaka) 1865
7 Takahē 1863
8 Hihi (Stitchbird) 1750
9 Blue Duck (Whio) 1695
10 Ruru (Morepork) 1586
11 Black Robin 1508
12 Yellow Eyed Penguin (Hoiho) 1359
13 Kārearea (New Zealand Falcon) 1218
14 Tūī 1162
15 Kōkako 1156
16 Banded Dotterel (Pohowera) 1008
17 Rockhopper Penguin 1004
18 Albatross (Toroa) 962
19 Little Penguin (Kororā) 892
20 Kākā 764
21 Fairy Tern (Tara iti) 725
22 Kingfisher (Kōtare) 663
23 Bittern (Matuku) 606
24 Bellbird (Korimako) 496
25 Kiwi 489
26 Rock Wren 489
27 Rowi (Okarito Brown Kiwi) 476
28 Tomtit (Miromiro) 463
29 Grey Warbler (Riroriro) 442
30 Black-billed Gull (Tarāpuka) 441
31 New Zealand Robin (Toutouwai) 440
32 Saddleback (Tīeke) 407
33 Weka 402
34 Hutton's Shearwater (Kaikōura Tītī) 379
35 Royal Spoonbill (Kōtuku Ngutupapa) 334
36 Tawaki (Fiordland Crested Penguin) 329
37 Pūkeko 315
38 Shag (Kawau) 297
39 Gannet (Tākapu) 285
40 Rifleman (Tītipounamu) 256
41 Barn Owl 215
42 Wrybill (Ngutuparore) 213
43 New Zealand Dotterel (Tūturiwhatu) 207
44 Whenua Hou Diving Petrel 205
45 Harrier (Kāhu) 177
46 Black Petrel (Tāiko) 169
47 Shore Plover (Tuturuatu) 163
48 Black-fronted Tern (Tarapirohe) 162
49 Silvereye (Tauhou) 153
50 Bar-tailed Godwit (Kuaka) 131
51 Mohua 106
52 Fernbird (Mātātā) 96
53 Brown Teal (Pāteke) 72
54 Whitehead (Pōpokatea) 70
55 Spotless Crake (Pūweto) 68
56 Shining Cuckoo (Pīpīwharauroa) 66
57 Scaup (Pāpango) 61
58 White-faced Heron (Matuku Moana) 57
59 Westland Petrel (Tāiko) 55
60 Arctic Skua 53
61 South Polar Skua 50

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