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The nation has voted and Aotearoa New Zealand has a new Bird of the Year.  

New Zealand’s moss-colored flightless parrot has climbed to the top-spot for the second time in Forest & Bird’s annual Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau/Bird of the Year competition. 

Throughout the two-week voting period, the Antipodean Albatross topped the leader board with the most number one votes, however the kākāpō bounded into the lead with most votes overall once the preferential voting system was applied.  

“Our kākāpō is the heaviest, the longest-living, the only flightless, and the only nocturnal parrot on the planet,” says Laura Keown, spokesperson for Bird of the Year.  

“This is the first time any bird has won the Bird of the Year title more than once, so New Zealand’s mighty moss chicken can add yet another feather to its cap,” says Laura. 

Kākāpō took its first Bird of the Year title back in 2008, and has remained a popular bird in the competition in spite (or maybe because) of a salacious sex tape broadcast on the BBC in 2009.  

“The things that make kākāpō unique also make them vulnerable to threats. They are slow breeders, they nest on the ground, and their main defense is to imitate a shrub. Those qualities worked great in the island of birds the kākāpō evolved in, but they don’t fool introduced predators like stoats, rats and cats,” says Laura. 

Kākāpō used to live throughout Aotearoa, but today they only survive on predator free islands. 

“These birds were literally brought back from the brink of extinction. There were only 50 birds in the 1990s and they’ve been saved by intensive conservation efforts. Today there are 213 kākāpō.”  

“In New Zealand, eighty percent of our native birds are in trouble or facing extinction, including the kākāpō.”  

“We really need to protect and restore the places our birds birds call home. New Zealand can and should be full of birds for future generations, and future Bird of the Year competitions,” says Laura.   

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

There were 55,583 votes cast in Bird of the Year 2020, up from 43,460 in 2019, and the most ever received in the competition’s history.  

Highlights from the 2020 campaign trail 

  • Even with the international albatross community valiantly rallying for New Zealand’s endangered toroa, the Antipodean albatross’ catch phrase ‘Sea Birds Not Tree Birds’ was not enough to fend off the cuddly kākāpō. 
  • Neither were the various alliances between birds, which included the Kiwi Koalition, the Beach Boi Party, and the Penguin Party.  
  • Voter fraud was discovered when volunteer scrutineers from Dragonfly Data Science found 1500 votes cast around 3:00 am from the same IP address, all for the smallest (and cutest) kiwi species, kiwi pukupuku/little spotted kiwi.  
  • Infamously, the humble polygamist, the hihi won the endorsement of Adult Toy Megastore as well as that of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Phoenix Football Team, and the Central Pulse Netball Team.  

Final results of Bird of the Year 2020 

Top 10 winners with instant run-off preferential voting applied: 

  1. Kākāpō 

  1. Toroa/Antipodean Albatross 

  1. Kakaruia/Black Robin 

  1. Kārearea/New Zealand Falcon 

  1. Kererū 

  1. Pohowera/Banded Dotterel 

  1. Kākā 

  1. Ruru/Morepork 

  1. Whio/Blue Duck 

  1. Pīwakawaka/Fantail 

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