Fresh off the back of the cheating scandal that rocked Fat Bear Week, New Zealand’s contentious Bird of the Year Competition is already off to a suspect beginning. The two-time winner of the competition, the kākāpō, New Zealand’s famous flightless parrot, has been barred from entering.
Despite claiming the title in 2020 and 2008, the world's fattest parrot has been denied a place in the competition due to concerns it would take away the focus from New Zealand’s other worthy, albeit less show-stopping candidates.
This is not the only scandal to have rocked the Bird of the Year Competition. Last year voters were shocked when the competition was won by a bat. Yes really. The organizers say they wanted to raise awareness of the conservation issues facing New Zealand’s only native land mammals. The pekapeka-tou-roa took the title with more than 3,000 votes, though not everyone was pleased with the decision. Unsurprisingly the pekapeka has also been barred from this year's competition.
Previous years have also had to deal with the sponsorship of a bird with big testicles by an adult toy shop, suspected voter fraud from Russia, though this was later thought to be Russian ornithologists just joining in, and 2018 saw an excess of votes as the public tried to push the crown towards a bird species known as the shag. The title has even been awarded to New Zealand's drunkest bird.
So who will win this year? With the competition due to open on Monday, October 17, there are 71 birds in the mix. The competition this year is heavily supporting the “underbird”, those species that are not usually in the limelight. The Cook’s petrel is on the entry list for the first time and the New Zealand dotterel has been split into separate northern and southern species.
“We can’t wait to see what shenanigans the birds – and humans campaigning for them – get up to this year,” says Forest & Bird chief executive Nicola Toki in a statement.
To see the full list of birds head to the Forest and Bird website.