31 Oct 2016

Feathers ruffled as kōkako crowned NZ Bird of the Year

10:02 am on 31 October 2016

The kōkako has been crowned New Zealand's Bird of the Year after a record number of votes were cast in this year's competition.

A North Island Kōkako (callaeas wilsoni) head in closeup.

A North Island kōkako (callaeas wilsoni), in closeup. Photo: (Matt Binns Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

The kōkako, or blue-wattled crow received 3614 votes, more than a thousand votes ahead of its nearest rival, the kea which garnered 2608.

This year it won the competition fair and square after a vote-fixing scandal rocked last years' competition when two 15-year-old girls flooded the competition's voting system with fraudulent votes for the kōkako.

Kimberley Collins from Forest and Bird, who runs the competition, said there was a record-breaking voter turnout this year with just under 20,000 lodging a ballot.

She told Morning Report the successful campaign was led by 16-year-old Oscar Thomas from Auckland, with help from the Rotoehu Ecological Trust in the Bay of Plenty.

She said Oscar was "over the moon" when he heard of the win.

"He was absolutely enamored by its haunting call, it's got that beautiful organ-sound voice that apparently makes the tūī sound like an elaborate train wreck".

However, the kōkako victory has ruffled some feathers. The pīwakawaka, or fantail, was pushed by RNZ's Business Editor Gyles Beckford and the music ensemble Fly My Pretties, who ran a competition giving away some free tickets to people who voted for the bird. But the bird only came in third with 1508 votes.

The large grey kōkako was facing extinction, with just 660 left at the turn of the millennium, but their numbers have increased to about 3000 after predator control and translocation programmes, Ms Collins said.

The kōkako is found mainly in tall, diverse North Island native forest - among tawa, taraire or kauri - and are largely restricted to pest controlled areas.