INDEPENDENT NEWS

Bird Of The Century Voting Opens Next Week

Published: Fri 27 Oct 2023 10:16 AM
Prepare for ruffled feathers! New Zealanders will head to the polls next week for the most anticipated election of the year.
Top, left to right: Huia by Auckland Museum Ref LB 9129 (CC BY 4.0); North Island Piopio, Turnagra tanagra, collected 8 September 1900, Waitotara district, New Zealand. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (OR.000212). Bottom, left to right: South Island snipe by Don Merton/Department of Conservation Ref 10040147; Laughing owl by Buthbert & Oliver Parr, 1909 at Raincliff Station, Opihi River, South Canterbury; Bush wren by Don Merton/Department of Conservation Ref 10037276.
Seventy-seven fabulous native manu are in the running for the coveted title of Te Manu Rongonui o Te Rautau | Bird of the Century 2023.
The world's best bird competition, Bird of the Year, has been temporarily rebranded as Bird of the Century to celebrate Forest & Bird’s 100th birthday.
In addition, five extinct species have been added as candidates for the first time ever: the mātuhituhi bush wren, tutukiwi South Island snipe, huia, piopio, and whēkau laughing owl.
After taking a hiatus last year, the kākāpō has returned for the biggest battle of the birds in 100 years. Other changes to the line-up include the addition of two seabirds, the toroa Buller’s mollymawk, and the tītī wainui fairy prion.
Dozens of campaign managers have signed up to back their favourite species and Forest & Bird encourages all Kiwis (the human kind) to share who they’re voting for with their whānau and friends, and on social media.
“We love seeing the passion and creativity that our native birds inspire,” says Forest & Bird chief executive Nicola Toki. “Every year, we’re surprised and delighted by the birdy shenanigans and heartwarming kōrero that stem from Bird of the Year.”
Campaign managers are already hard at work, creating memes, organising dance parties, and planning printmaking workshops.
But behind the fun and celebration, there is an important message.
“The five extinct birds in this year’s competition are a heartbreaking reminder of the beautiful birds we’ve lost,” says Ms Toki.
“Eighty-two percent of our living native bird species are threatened or at risk of extinction. We cannot let any more end up with the tragic fate of the laughing owl or the huia.”
Voting for Te Manu Rongonui o Te Rautau | Bird of the Century 2023 opens at 9am on Monday 30 October and runs for two weeks. You can vote for up to five birds – all the voting details are outlined on the Bird of the Year website. Voting closes at 5pm on Sunday 12 November, and the winner will be announced on the morning of Monday 13 November.
Mātuhituhi | Bush wren – a small and nearly flightless wren that once lived on all three main islands of NZ. The last North Island bird was seen in 1955, and South Island in 1968. Birds were found on Big South Cape Island in 1964 and relocated to Kaimohu Island, where the last of them died in 1972.
Tutukiwi | South Island snipe – with its last refuge (Big South Cape Island) invaded by ship rats, the South Island snipe became extinct in 1964 – despite a rescue attempt mounted by the Wildlife Service. Two males were captured but died in captivity.
Huia – the last officially confirmed sighting of this iconic songbird was in 1907, but it’s likely the huia persisted into the 1920s. Unconfirmed but credible sightings even extend into the 50s and 60s from the Urewera Ranges.
Piopio – often considered the native thrush, the piopio was split into North and South Island species in 2012. But the last official records of this songster come from 1902 and 1905, with reports of sightings continuing into the 1970s.
Whēkau | Laughing owl – the last confirmed record of the laughing owl was a dead specimen found in Canterbury in 1914, but sight and sound records persisted into the 1930s.

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