11 Oct 2021

Bird of the Year: Bats join the competition

From Morning Report, 7:40 am on 11 October 2021

A new entrant to the annual Bird of the Year/Te Manu Rongonui o te Tau competition has caused a flap.

New Zealand’s long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus).

Photo: Department of Conservation

The long-tailed bat, pekapeka-tou-roa, has swooped in on the competition that allows Kiwis to vote for their favourite bird, the first time a New Zealand native land mammal has ever been included. 

The long-tailed bat is one of two native bat species in New Zealand and is the one Kiwis are most likely to have seen, with populations in cities like Auckland, Hamilton and Rotorua.

Auckland Council senior conservation advisor Ben Paris told Morning Report the small, long tailed bat is cute and furry but under threat.

"I think New Zealanders quite love the underdog. These little bats are cute and furry and are really underrepresented in our New Zealand fauna, so might as well get behind the bat."

Including the mammals in the Bird of the Year competition is certainly setting the bat amongst the pigeons, so to speak, but Paris said the competition is a great opportunity for people to learn more about them. 

"Our bats need a lot more special attention, because not many people know that we have two New Zealand native species a bat and they really, really special."

Paris said running a separate competition for the bats would be "quite boring" since there are only two species so including them in the Bird of the Year was the best way to get the word out there.

If the bat wins the competition it will join previous winners the kākāpō, the hoiho, the kererū, and the kea.

Voting will open on 18 October.