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The Kōkako has been crowned New Zealand's Bird of the Year after two weeks of close competition and heated campaigning.

Best known for its deep organ-like call, the Kōkako is a large slate-grey bird with blue wattles.

Once threatened with extinction there were just 660 Kōkako left in 1999. But today, their numbers have passed 3000 individuals, and populations are recovering thanks to predator control and translocation programmes.

Like many of New Zealand’s native birds, the Kōkako is vulnerable to predation by introduced mammalian predators such as stoats, cats, possums and rats that kill eggs, young birds and adults.

The Kōkako’s successful campaign to win Bird of the Year was led by 16-year-old Oscar Thomas from Auckland, with help from the Rotoehu Ecological Trust in the Bay of Plenty.

“I first got interested in birds after my class visited Tiritiri Matangi Island when I was 10 years old. I didn’t see the Kōkako that day, but it was worth the return trip. It’s haunting call and ghostly appearance has fascinated me ever since” he said.

“It has the most beautiful call of all New Zealand’s birds and it’s the loudest in the forest. It sings with a deep, five-note call that makes the Tūī sound like an elaborate train wreck.”

While most teenagers have their eyes fixed on screens, Oscar can be found looking for birds. He is one of the youngest guides on Tiritiri Matangi, helps run a club for young birders, and has even volunteered to count rare birds on the Chatham Islands.

Oscar hopes the Bird of the Year title will raise awareness for the kōkako and all of New Zealand’s birds, many of which are threatened with extinction.

“I wanted to show people how special all our native birds are and what we stand to lose. 80 per cent of New Zealand’s birds are classified as at risk or threatened and if we don’t do anything to help them, they could be gone forever.”

Bird of the Year is one of Forest & Bird’s most popular annual events. 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. This year saw just under 20,000 people vote for their favourite bird.

The Kea came in second with 2608 votes followed by the Fantail (Pīwakawaka) with 1508 votes.

This is the first time the Kōkako has won the Bird of the Year title - it came second to the Bar-tailed Godwit (Kuaka) in 2015.

Full results

Albatross, 775 votes

Banded Dotterel, 164 votes

Bar Tailed Godwit, 65 votes

Barn Owl, 178 votes

Bellbird (Korimako), 323 votes

Bittern, 158 votes

Black Billed Gull, 86 votes

Black Petrel (Taiko), 68 votes

Blue Duck (Whio), 165 votes

Brown Teal (Pateke), 172 votes

Chatham Island Black Robin, 314 votes

Fairy Tern (Tara Iti), 128 votes

Fantail (Pīwakawaka), 1508 votes

Fernbird (Kotata), 71 votes

Fiordland Crested Penguin (Tawaki), 78 votes

Gannet (Takapu), 108 votes

Grey Warbler (Riroriro), 288 votes

Harrier (Kahu), 250 votes

Hihi (Stitchbird), 243 votes

Hutton’s Shearwater, 67 votes

Kākā, 539 votes

Kākāpō, 654 votes

Kākāriki, 126 votes

Kakī (Black Stilt), 620 votes

Kārearea (New Zealand Falcon), 527 votes

Kea, 2608 votes

Kererū, 511 votes

Kingfisher (Kōtare), 342 votes

Kiwi, 152 votes

Kōkako, 3614 votes

Little Blue Penguin (Kōrora), 190 votes

Mohua, 60 votes

New Zealand Dotterel (Tuturiwhatu), 251 votes

New Zealand Robin (Toutouwai), 205 votes

New Zealand Scaup (Pāpango), 81 votes

Pūkeko, 146 votes

Rifleman (Tītipounamu), 120 votes

Rock Wren, 104 votes

Royal Spoonbill, 165 votes

Ruru (Morepork), 900 votes

Saddleback (Tieke), 336 votes

Shag, 49 votes

Shining Cuckoo, 73 votes

Shore Plover (Tūturuatu), 47 votes

Sooty Shearwater, 493 votes

Southern Rockhopper Penguin, 97 votes

Spur-Winged Plover, 38 votes

Takahē, 187 votes

Tomtit, 145 votes

Tūī, 597 votes

Weka, 242 votes

White Faced Heron, 55 votes

Wrybill, 69 votes

Yellow Eyed Penguin (Hoiho), 139 votes

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