The birds are back in town! Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition aims to raise awareness of New Zealand’s endangered bird species, and every year Kiwis flock to the polls to decide who will take out the top honour.
The ever-growing beloved Bird of the Year campaign will once again have the nation in a flap. Who will fly to victory? Aotearoa New Zealand has the most amazing native wildlife. But right now, 80% of our birds (and 100% of our bats!) are in trouble. Climate change and habitat destruction are big threats to all our native species. If we protect and restore our rivers, forests, oceans, and climate, we can bring our native wildlife back from the brink.
New Zealand is home to over 200 native bird species, many of which aren’t found anywhere else in the world. From flightless wonders to long-distance travellers, check out our top ‘pecks’ for Bird of the Year 2021.
Kākā – Gossip queens of the forest.
Friends who squawk together stay together. Flocks of boisterous kākā gather early morning and late evening to socialise – their amusing antics and raucous voice led Māori to refer to them as chattering gossips. They are impressive fliers, and when seen from below you’ll notice their red under wings. Coming in seventh last year, they’re aiming high for 2021.
Kārearea – New Zealand Falcon.
Famous for fronting the New Zealand $20 note, kārearea can clock 230km/h and can catch prey mid-flight. Their relatively short, deep rounded wings, and long tail make them exceptionally manoeuvrable. They have even adapted to hunt within the dense New Zealand forests. Is this aerial acrobat going to smash the competition this year?
Ngutu pare – Wrybill.
No other bird in the world has a bill like the wrybill. Its bill curves to the right, allowing it to probe for insects under river stones. The colouration of adults, eggs and chicks provides superb camouflage — the most amazingly perfect protective colouration that there is among New Zealand birds. Known to perform large aerial displays with their flocks – surely this gets them some votes for this year!
Tarāpuka – Black-billed Gull.
New Zealand’s only endemic gull, it has the unfortunate status of the most endangered gull in the world. Although it is usually thought of as a seagull, this gull is found on braided rivers, lakes, and farmland in the breeding season. You are less likely to see them in urban areas than other gulls as they are not big on scavenging for leftovers. Gulls around the world have always been misrepresented, and what better way to change attitudes – vote for them today!
Pekapeka-tou-roa – long-tailed bat
After winning Bat of the Year too many times to count, pekapeka-tou-roa are ready to step up to the plate. Pekapeka are more bird-like than wannabirds in this competition. Saying this may ruffle some feathers but many of our flagship species can’t even fly! Once common across the motu (country), pekapeka-tou-roa are now so rare it isn’t known how many are left. Pekapeka are deservedly manu (birds) and thoroughly deserve a vote.
Bird of The Year is one example of Kiwi’s working together to protect our birds for future generations. But it isn’t the only thing we’re doing to make New Zealand predator free by 2050. We are also innovating, here are two of our favourite innovations. The Squawk Squad is a tech start-up that has engaged over 45,000 Kiwi kids in conservation,
and Smart Eggs are stand-in Kākāpō eggs that mimic the real deal which allows DOC Rangers to switch them out to protect them from predators until they hatch.
It’s the 16th Bird of the Year and voting opens on 18th October until 31st October with the winner announced Monday 1st November. Find out more about these birds, and vote for your favourite at birdoftheyear.org.nz
Looking for somewhere that puts birdlife in the spotlight? We know a place.