The infamous New Zealand Bird of the Year competition has come to a close, and in true BOTY fashion the voting was rife with accusations of false ballots. In an unprecedented win, the Kākāpō took the title marking its second victory as New Zealand’s Bird of the Year since voting began 15 years ago.
Tensions were high throughout the voting period as while the Antipodean albatross was top of the charts, the polygamist Hihi, a small bird with unusually large genitals, gained the endorsement of Adult Toy Megastore, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Phoenix Football Team, and the Central Pulse Netball Team in one fell swoop.
Meanwhile, some Tomfoolery was afoot amid team little spotted kiwi. The jiggery-pokery alarm was sounded by volunteer scrutineers from Dragonfly Data Science when they noticed more than 1,500 votes had been cast by one email address, all in favor of Kiwi pukupuku. The ballot-box stuffing attempt was however stifled as the votes were discounted by Forest & Bird, the event’s organizers.
As the scandal unfolded our victor was slowly but steadily plodding its way to victory, as is the nature of Kākāpō locomotion. By close of voting, this flightless bird had soared to the top of the leaderboard and so the world’s fattest parrot took the title of Forest & Bird's annual Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau/Bird of the Year for the second time, marking the first time this has ever happened in the competition. The stocky, moss-green, nocturnal parrot first topped the leaderboard in 2008.
Kākāpō, which are found only in New Zealand, are critically endangered birds which were once widespread throughout New Zealand. Today, they are only found on predator-free islands with Aotearoa protected by conservation authorities trying to restore their population.
Locally known as “moss chickens”, these unusual birds shot to internet fame following an unlikely mating encounter between one individual and the head of zoologist Mark Carwardine who was working with Stephen Fry on the wildlife documentary Last Chance to See. Back in the 90s there were just 50 Kākāpōs left in the wild, but thanks to the dedication of conservationists their numbers are now estimated to be at 213, spelling a hopeful future for our two-time victor.