With one week to go before the competition opens, the long-tailed bat/pekapeka-tou-roa has appeared on the voting website with their own profile for voters to view.
“Wait, what?” says Forest & Bird spokesperson Laura Keown.
The controversial move is the first time a New Zealand native land mammal has ever been included in the competition and is sure to ruffle some feathers!
“New Zealand’s bats are incredible, and they are in big trouble,” says Laura.
“They live side-by-side with our native birds, roost in hollow trees, and only come out at night to feast on insects.”
“But many people don’t even know they exist. Maybe that’s how they snuck into the competition under cover of darkness.”
The spokesperson for the bat campaign, Ben Paris (Senior Conservation Advisor at Auckland Council by day, known as New Zealand Batman by night), says, “I’m excited to see bats swoop-in on Forest & Bird’s annual bird battle.”
“New Zealand has two native bat species, long-tailed bats, and short-tailed bats. They are both in serious trouble from habitat loss and predators. Having them included in Bird of the Year is a great opportunity for people to learn more about bats.”
“They’re as small as your thumb, the wingspan of your hand, and weigh the same as a $2 coin. Why get your voting feathers in a flap, when you could vote small, fierce, and furry!”
The trash-talk from competing bird candidates has already begun.
"We spent hours going through all of the Bird of the Year legislation. After weeks of caucus meetings, Team Toroa is forced to welcome long-tailed bat/pekapeka-tou-roa as a legitimate candidate, since there isn't any rule that says bats can't campaign," says Antipodean albatross campaign manager Dan Brady.
“Since over 90% of seabirds in Aotearoa are considered 'at risk' or worse, Team Toroa is urging the public to forget about bats, and vote for a grand coalition of seabirds. #SeabirdsNotTreebirds!”
“The Tūturiwhatu/New Zealand Dotterel has sterling bravery, dashing good looks, and is going to pick up more votes than a Russian carousel voting bus,” says New Zealand Dotterel meme manager Leighton Simmons.
“We’re going to stop the steal from pekapeka!”
“We at Team Kākāpō look forward to making this competition more accessible, especially to another creature of the night,” says campaign manager for the reigning champion kākāpō Gus Jessep.
“Although we can’t fly, we stand beside our pekapeka brethren.”
Voting opens in one week, at 9am on 18 October, and ends on 31 October at 5pm.