TODAY |

Bird of the Year: What sets them apart and which NZ celebrity they'd be

As the battle for Bird of the Year heats up, the claws are out in the competition to crown the New Zealand bird worthy of the title. 

1 NEWS asked the campaign managers why their bird deserves the crown, and even which New Zealand celebrity their bird resembles.  

Kererū (Campaign Manager: Tim Onnes)

Nearby trees are proving irresistible to the kereru birds.
Source: 1 NEWS

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

Because they're great. They're the big strapping flying labradors of the forest and they're hugely important for spreading the seeds of native trees.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

Girth.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

The kererū is all of us.

Toutouwai - New Zealand robin (Campaign Managers: Hannah Shand and Melissa Boardman)

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See the campaign video for the toutouwai - New Zealand robin. Source: Hannah Shand and Melissa Boardman

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

Robins are the whole package to win BOTY. They are not only tiny and adorable, they are intelligent, friendly, and fearless. But don’t let their confidence deceive you, the robin population is declining due to introduced predators and they only survive in areas with intensive pest management. It’s about time these little troopers have their chance in the spotlight.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

Despite their small size, the NZ robin has a big personality! Unlike other birds, robins relish in human interaction and will happily guide you on a bush walk. With a little bit of encouragement, they'll hop right up to you sifting through the leaf litter in search of worms, and if you're lucky they might even perch on your foot for a photo.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Mel* from Flight of the Conchords (*not technically Kiwi, but close enough!). She follows around our Kiwi comedy icons just as a robin would in the forest; she's cute, quirky and a little bit stalky!

Hihi (Campaign Manager: Stuart Atwood)

hihi
Source: Supplied

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

Other birds are taking extinction lying down, hihi is doing its best to re-populate!

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

The hihi has an amazing sex life, they are the only bird known to mate face to face and the male has testicles four times larger than it should for its size! The hihi is a lover!

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

After some discussion we decided that if the hihi was a famous New Zealander it would be Taika Waititi.

Ngutuparore - Wrybill (Campaign Manager: Elizabeth Nielson)

wrybill
Source: Elizabeth Nielson

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

Ngutuparore should be bird of the year because currently they're a bit invisible. Literally. They nest in riverbeds, and they are little and tone in with the stones they nest amongst. And because people don't know about them, they don't know to respect their environment. I reckon they need their turn at being bird of the year to shrug off that mantle of invisibility.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

The wrybill has something no other bird has - a bent beak! It always bends in the same direction too.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

What I keep coming up with is that the wrybill is one of us, your typical rural New Zealander. Sure, they might be known in their local communities, but mostly they’re focused on raising their family, trying to protect their little bit of whenua, worried about our waterways, climate change and flooding. And avoiding traffic. (What are those SUVs doing in the river anyway???)

Pūkeko (Campaign Manager: Matt Lough)

pukeko
Source: Forest and Bird: Luc Hoogenstein

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

The Pūkeko is a treasure, they're very cute birds that have built them self a reputation of being fierce warriors. NZ needs a strong fighter as our bird leader.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

It's one of the only birds in NZ that can pick a fight with a cat or a stoat and win.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Jacinda Ardern. Pūkeko can also run a country while rearing their chicks.

Kiwi (Campaign Manager: Ganesh Sankar)

kiwi bird of the year
Source: Forest and Bird

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

Only seeing NZ's iconic bird in museums and in heritage parks is disheartening, and you can't even take a photo of them. They deserve to roam freely.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

We are all called Kiwis because of this bird. We are not called takahē or kaka.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Every single New Zealander.

Rockhopper Penguin (Campaign Manger: Emma Rawson)

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

The sassy and charismatic rockhopper is trying to make history as the first penguin to win the prestigious Bird of the Year title. Rockhoppers are scrappers by nature and are fighting for survival - their numbers have declined by 30 per cent in 30 years. Even though a rockhopper can swim up to 14,000km in search of squid and krill, there is less food to take home to feed its young. The diminished food supply can be attributed to rising sea temperatures and changes to the marine ecosystem due to global warming.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

Punk hairdos aren’t just for people; the rockhopper stands out from the crowd thanks to a distinctive bright yellow crest of feathers, called a supercilium. The crest looks like a set of extravagant eyebrows and proves irresistible during the bird’s head-nodding courtship ritual. Rockhoppers are monogamous. A penguin proposal involves picking out the nicest rock, stick or available object and offering it along with the promise of equally shared parenting duties.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Sir Edmund Hillary because of their ability to scale great heights in cold places. Even though rockhoppers live in the remote Campbell, Antipodes and Auckland islands in the Subantarctic, like Sir Ed, they are proud to be a New Zealander.

Tarapiohe – Black fronted tern (Campaign Manager: Glenda Rees)

Black fronted tern
Source: Supplied

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

It is a battler - battles the elements and humans as it nests on the stones of the South Island's braided rivers. It is at the mercy of spring snow melt and heavy rainfall which floods its nesting environment, prevalent to the usual predators and human disturbance. Because these birds are very highly strung when nesting they will often dive bomb any intruders even quite a distance from the nest. For that reason they are often despised by the public as they feel the birds are "attacking" them. Through all of this, plus vehicle disturbance on the river beds, these birds are fighting to remain in existence.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

They are the only true endemic tern of NZ and unlike other terns which are found on the coast these birds are found in the high country. They are definitely not ‘a seagull’ - they do not eat your chips - they prefer skinks and worms! They are the most beautiful, delicate and graceful bird we have in New Zealand and perform awesome aerial acrobatics.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Jacinda Ardern because the black-fronted tern is a ‘true Kiwi’, a devoted parent, has a chatty persona and is a battler for the rights of the countryside.

Whio – Blue Duck (Campaign Manager: Krysia Nowak)

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

Our endemic duck that doesn’t quack. These sleek swimmers need clear, fast-flowing rivers, so you’re unlikely to see them on your local pond – although you might find them on your $10 note! Stoats and declining habitat are major threats to whio, and with less than 3000 of them, it's time for us to help out.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

They're the hardcore duck that surfs the rapids instead of bobbing on ponds. They have lips. That's because they scrape invertebrates (insects etc.) off rocks for their kai - and without those lips they'd grind down their bill! That's also behind our 'pucker up for the underduck' campaign! They are streamlined for swimming in strong currents, and have big strong feet to help them, even when they're ducklings (think puppies with big feet!).

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Jemaine Clement - check out those lips!

Kakī - Black Stilt (Campaign Manager: Stephanie Galla & Natalie Forsdick)

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

Few New Zealanders know of this critically-endangered species, which is rarer than the kākāpō, and yet easy to see in the braided rivers of the Mackenzie Basin. Kakī numbered only 23 birds in the 1980s, but thanks to conservation efforts, now number 132 adults in the wild. Kakī are staunch, fierce, rare, and beautiful South Islanders, and we feel it is their time to shine with New Zealand’s highest bird accolade.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

kaki
Source: Forest and Bird - Mike Ashbee

In addition to pursuing a traditional social media campaign, we are implementing a novel campaign approach using Tinder to reach an untapped market of young people in NZ. While embracing the playful spirit of Bird of the Year, Shelly has already matched with heaps of users in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. She has engaged in a number of enlightening and entertaining conversations and successfully won over a number of hearts for #TeamKakī.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Sam Neill. Hands down. He is a staunch South Islander with a gruff attitude. He also is an alumnus of the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, which are the two Universities that are campaigning for kakī. Also, kakī kind of look like feathered raptors, and Sam Neill starred in Jurassic Park.

Kākāpō (Campaign Manager: Angus Jessep)

Kakapo. Source: 1 NEWS

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

The original party parrot, launched global efforts at conservation after being seen online.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

Great dance moves (see Stephen Fry).

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Richie McCaw, well liked all round, no one has a problem with them.

Matuku – Bittern (Campaign Manager: Ria Kemp)

bittern
Source: Supplied

• Why should your bird be Bird of the Year?

Without a doubt our swamp birds are in trouble. With ever decreasing wetlands these birds have to make do by trying to live in drains along the sides of roads or hanging out in boggy pasture lands. They are incredibly beautiful to watch and researchers have been tagging and releasing in order to find out more about this shy and secretive bird.

• What does your bird have that sets it apart from the rest?

With names like Barry White and Elvis you can see this bird is unique.

• If your bird were a well-known New Zealander, who would they be?

Kim Hill or Frank Torley. Both voices are smooth and dark and suitable to be a champion crooner.

Click here to read about the Tāiko - Westland Petrel, Pohowera - Banded Dotterel, Miromiro - Tomtit, Ruru - Morepork, Rowi - Okarito Brown Kiwi, Pūweto - Spotless Crake, and the Matuku Moana - White Faced Heron.

To have your say, vote here.

Also up for the Bird of the Year title:

Albatross (Toroa)
Arctic Skua
Bar-tailed Godwit (Kuaka)
Barn Owl
Bellbird (Korimako)
Black-billed Gull (Tarāpuka)
Black-fronted Tern (Tarapirohe)
Brown Teal (Pāteke)
Fairy Tern (Tara Iti)
Fantail (Pīwakawaka)
Fernbird (Mātātā)
Gannet (Tākapu)
Grey Warbler (Riroriro)
Harrier (Kāhu)
Hutton's Shearwater (Kaikōura Tītī)
Kākā
Kārearea (New Zealand Falcon)
Kea
Kingfisher (Kōtare)
Kōkako
Little Penguin (Kororā)
Mohua
New Zealand Dotterel (Tūturiwhatu)
Orange-fronted Parakeet (Kākāriki Karaka)
Rifleman (Tītipounamu)
Royal Spoonbill (Kōtuku Ngutupapa)
Saddleback (Tīeke)
Scaup (Pāpango)
Shag (Kawau)
Shining Cuckoo (Pīpīwharauroa)
Shore Plover (Tuturuatu)
Silvereye (Tauhou)
South Polar Skua
Takahē
Tawaki (Fiordland Crested Penguin)
Tūī
Weka
Whenua Hou Diving Petrel
Whitehead (Pōpokatea)
Wrybill (Ngutuparore)
Yellow Eyed Penguin (Hoiho)