Skulduggery in Bird of the Year contest, as white-faced heron support spikes

The bird at the centre of the scandal, the white-faced heron.
CRAIG MCKENZIE

The bird at the centre of the scandal, the white-faced heron.

First it was the Russians interfering in the US election, now voting irregularities have been uncovered in the Bird of the Year contest.

The voter fraud was detected by Wellington-based statistical analysts Dragonfly Data Science, which has also run programmes to track votes in real elections in this country, the US and UK.

Scientist Yvan Richard, who was running the programme, noticed a big spike in votes for the white-faced heron around midnight after the first day of voting on Monday. There was also another smaller spike around 11am on Tuesday.

Support for the white-faced heron spiked suspiciously.
DRAGONFLY DATA SCIENCE

Support for the white-faced heron spiked suspiciously.

Altogether 112 votes were found to have come from the one IP address, somewhere in the Christchurch area.

READ MORE:
Kokako wins Bird of the Year title
Are we winning the battle for our birds?
Fraudulent Bird of the Year votes ruffle feathers

The white-faced heron fan used a random email generator, so all the votes came from different email addresses, Bird of the Year co-ordinator Kimberley Collins said.

The Kea is well ahead in the race, with 2292 votes.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

The Kea is well ahead in the race, with 2292 votes.

The rule was only one vote per person, so all but one vote from the offending IP address had been deleted. Security on the competition website had also been updated.

No other strange voting patterns had been detected, Collins said.

"We're not angry. We're just impressed they were able to do that and they care enough about a bird to do it."

The white-faced heron: someone is prepared to commit voter fraud for this bird.
CRAIG MCKENZIE

The white-faced heron: someone is prepared to commit voter fraud for this bird.

Organisers didn't expect the fraudulent voter to come forward but suggested he or she might like to make a donation to Forest & Bird's Givealittle page Our Native Birds Need You.

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Without the dodgy votes, the white-faced heron had just 30 votes shortly after 8am on Wednesday. The kea is streaking ahead with 2292 votes, while the kererū has 1101. Voting closes on October 23.

It's not the first time the Bird of the Year has been rocked by dodgy voting. In 2015 two 15-year-old twin sisters managed to use their parents' business account to make hundreds of fake emails, which they used to the benefit of the kōkako.

 - Stuff

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