Kererū debate sows native seeds of division in Bird of the Year competition
The chubby-chested kererū is polarising the voting public, straining relationships and tearing normally harmonious communal living spaces asunder with its Donald Trump-style political tactics.
With an aggressive meme-filled social media campaign, the kererū appears to be defying its "ridiculous" appearance and turning Forest & Bird's Bird of the Year competition into a fractious political bird-fight.
Wellington woman Ta'ase Vaoga found that out firsthand when she made an innocent Facebook post promoting her vote for the wide-eyed ruru, a native owl also known as the morepork.
The 35-year-old is a loyal supporter of owls in general, amassing a collection of eight or nine owl soft toys – "I'm quite restrained," she said – to match her three-year track record of consistent ruru voting.
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To Vaoga's surprise, a group of kererū supporters flocked to her Facebook page to proclaim their allegiance to the native wood pigeon.
She was even more stunned to find out the person leading the charge was her flatmate of three years, Christine Anderson, who said she was "pretty upset" to hear of Vaoga's views.
"I thought we were a house united but turns out we were a house divided," Anderson, a 31-year-old public servant, said.
"Have you seen how adorable the kererū is? And colourful. The morepork is just brown."
A viral social media campaign for the kererū has portrayed it as a larrikin in a suit which is both a species of the people – gluttonous, clumsy and drunk – but also a native bird that just gets things done.
Team Kererū. With a byline that reads, "Clumsy, drunk, gluttonous and glamorous", how can you not be! #BirdOfTheYear pic.twitter.com/2dSmn7Ql0h— Kiri Allan (@KiriAllan) October 9, 2017
NZ Forest and Bird said in the first day of voting, the kererū had amassed the second-highest number of votes.
Waikato ecologist Amanda Rogers appreciated what the kererū social media team has done.
She said the "girthy" bird was the only native bird large enough to spread the seed of some of New Zealand's most important native trees.
But Rogers' evidence-based support for the bird had attracted the ire of Dave Bryden, her partner of three years, who cast an "earlybird" vote for the tieke.
"Everyone knows the kererū is a dumb bird," Bryden said.
"If you pick a dumb bird you have to have a think about what that says about you."
Voting for Bird of the Year closes at 5pm on October 23 with the winning bird announced the following day.
Rogers says she had not voted yet and suspected Bryden was still holding out hope she would change her vote at the last minute.
"Not gonna happen."