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Kiwis flock to vote for Bird of the Year

October 27, 2022

Interview by Jessica Hopkins, adpated by David Liwei Shi

The Pīwauwau/Rock Wren (pictured) is currently in the lead in Forest and Bird's Bird of the Year competition. Photo: Unsplash.

Forest and Bird's annual Bird of the Year competition, Te Manu Rongonui o te Tau, is underway, with 71 of Aotearoa's native birds vying for the 2022 title. 

With more than 31,000 votes cast so far, the Pīwauwau/Rock Wren, Kororā/Little Penguin, Kea, Tawaki Piki Toka/Rockhopper Penguin, and Karure/Kakaruia/Chatham Island Black Robin are the preliminary top five birds.

Bird of the Year spokes-human Ellen Rykers told 95bFM's The Wire that since its launch in Forest and Bird magazine in 2005, the competition has become a nationwide event with the rise of social media. 

"It's awesome to see so many people turn out to support our native birds."

Rykers said the competition is a chance to raise awareness about Aotearoa's diverse bird species, 80% of which are facing extinction.

This year, Forest and Bird have highlighted 21 underbirds based on their popularity in previous Bird of the Year competitions, media mentions, and conservation status. 

Previously, there has been a focus on what Rykers calls "K-birds" – species whose name starts with the letter K, like the Kakapo and the Kiwi. 

"New Zealanders love getting behind an underdog – or in this case, underbird – and we want to channel that love to some of our feathered friends that may be overshadowed by their flashier, chonkier, or louder cousins," said Rykers. 

Voting for Bird of the Year closes at 5 pm on Sunday, 30 October. All votes need to be validated through email or text. You can rank up to five of your favourite birds. 

Although there is no actual prize to be won, Rykers said the winning bird will get "bragging rights and glory."

The winner will be announced on the morning of Monday, 31 October.

Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air