The Bird of the Year campaign

Last updated 14:00 11/09/2012

With the exception of participation rates in political elections, New Zealand loves to engage in polling. Check any number of Stuff stories for an opportunity to have your say about anything as varied who should have won The Block, to what age children should start school. Pretty straightforward stuff, but when it comes to the choice of which bird should be given the title of Bird of the Year, that's when the feathers start to fly.

Forest & Bird has been running the bird popularity poll for seven years now, and every year sees it rise in popularity. Well-known New Zealanders line up for the chance to be campaign managers, and depending on their time and capacity, enormous campaigns designed to lobby the New Zealand online public into voting for "their" favourite bird ensue.

Some go to extraordinary lengths to campaign for their bird - none more so than Wellingtonian Jackson Wood, who joined the poll last year on a fierce campaign for the saddleback or tieke, probably now a more familiar face to Wellingtonians due to their thriving presence at Zealandia (the tieke, not Jackson, but here's his face for you anyway).

Jackson Wood saddleback campaign

Jackson made a couple of videos, sent badges with a saddleback logo to potential voters (including me) in a shameless attempt at bribery and corruption - and in the weirdest campaign move seen in the history of Bird of the Year, he donned a saddle in Midland Park in Wellington, offering rides to (probably frightened!) punters if they would vote for his bird. This year he has cooked up all kinds of shenanigans including this video.

Bigger doesn't always mean better though. In 2007, a surprise victory for the tiny grey warbler emanated from broadcaster Graeme Hill's campaign, where he blatantly used his radio airtime to suck up more votes for the noisy wee bird and sent it hurtling to a landslide win. Graeme is back this year with a vengeance.

In the past we've had Jeremy Wells favouring the odd-looking royal spoonbill, Anton Oliver continuing to champion yellow-eyed penguins, and Sirocco the kakapo always makes the most of his international online following by pushing for kakapo (which won in 2008). How he manages to type so well with four toes always surprises me.

Last year's Bird of the Year was the much loved, sometimes maligned, fairly omnipresent pukeko. How it made it to the top is a mystery, but I suspect Genesis Energy's TV ads helped (incidentally, Genesis are behind the blue duck this year).

After the warm-up of the General Election last year, politicians will also hit the campaign trail, including National MP Nikki Kaye (kakariki), Labour MP Ruth Dyson (yellowhead), Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples (bar-tailed godwit) and Green Party co-leader Russel Norman (morepork).

This year a multitude of bird-loving Kiwis are hitting the campaign trail and nailing their colours to the mast, including;

Wellington International Ukelele orchestra - tui

Rachel Smalley (TV3) - fairy tern

Te Radar - skua

Raybon Kan - falcon

Gareth Morgan - Sooty Shearwater/titi

Jennifer Ward Lealand - kereru

Rachel Anderson Smith - kaka

Kimberley Collins - Campbell Island teal

David Slack - kokako

Steve Braunias - white-faced heron

Tim Jones - Takahe

WWF NZ - Kiwi

Genesis Energy - blue duck/whio

Co-op Bank - yellow-eyed penguin

Ogilvy - NZ Storm petrel

TB Free NZ - Robin (theme: Keep on rockin' in a predator free world)

...and many many more (too many to mention!).

You can follow their campaigning, cajoling, sledging and smack-talking attempts to win the bird popularity poll on Twitter at #birdoftheyear

I've left it until late to reveal my hand. It's time to throw my hat in the ring - the ONLY real winner for Bird of the Year must be that cheeky, brave, ubiquitous bird we all know and love - the piwakawaka or fantail. They're my personal kaitiaki, my favourite bird, and I would love it if you'd up the stakes for such a pretty player - vote FANTAIL for Bird of the Year. Seriously. But if you don't, who are you voting for and why? I'd love to hear about it.

Piwakawaka BOTY

Picture: Hayley Walmsley

20 comments
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button   #1   02:20 pm Sep 11 2012

Morepork all the way - I can hear them from my house in Karori each night and it is such a hauntingly beautiful cry - I love it!!! Long live the morepork!!!

weka   #2   02:25 pm Sep 11 2012

I am voting weka, they eat piwakawaka. Anything with that much attitude has to win.

Amanda Hil   #3   02:43 pm Sep 11 2012

I am voting for the KAKA, which is making a raucous return to the Capital - the Kaka is the People's Parrot with universal appeal and will screech its way to the top in 2012!

Bridget   #4   03:09 pm Sep 11 2012

I voted for the Kereru, cos we have lots at our house, and I find them quite lovely with their little white singlets, and entertaining as they sometimes fall off the power lines or decide to land on a branch that really can't take their weight!

Candy   #5   04:00 pm Sep 11 2012

Vote KEA. The Party Bird. The only bird that will give you this pub quiz winning factoid: a group of Kea is called a Circus. Vote Kea for Bird of the Year 2012. Kea Kaha.

Jackson Wood   #6   04:44 pm Sep 11 2012

While other birds — Kokako, Kaka, Tui, et al — are flashy and noisy, the Tieke's demure good looks, chestnut saddle, and fire engine red wattles really do make this bird deserving of Bird of the Year.

It is the poster bird for our country's ability to save the speciees that we love. At one point the Tieke was at the verge of extinction, but now it's back — Back on the saddle again — and thriving in sanctuaries around Aotearoa.

So come on, guys. It's Tieke Twelve, year of the Saddleback. Vote Saddleback

Suzanne   #7   06:47 pm Sep 11 2012

Takahe, they're fat & cute - kind of like a hobbit, which I also love. Come on takahe!!

David Slack   #8   08:02 pm Sep 11 2012

The Kokako is the colour of the dress my wife was wearing on the day I met her. The Kokako grew with New Zealand from the very first day. The Kokako is ancient, wise and ethereal. The Kokako looks like a jet from the space race era. The Kokako will enjoy a coffee at Astoria and look serene and mysterious. What the Kokako will not and cannot do, however, is park itself outside of Astoria with a handicam and try to get you to ride a man dressed as a horse. The Kokako appreciates you may count this against it, but the Kokako doubts it, because you look like a person of the world who knows style, sophistication and sheer class when he/she sees it. You can vote for the Kokako here: http://www.birdoftheyear.org.nz/your-vote/24 The Kokako thanks you.

Reb   #9   08:28 pm Sep 11 2012

Vote kea! They're seriously endangered and need help fast. The world wouldn't be the same without a kea to scoff the rubber on your car!

Carol   #10   08:50 pm Sep 11 2012

New Zealand falcon. These are so rare they are difficult to see in the wild. Very fast and feisty little birds.


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