John Oliver thanks the pūteketeke after Bird of the Century win

10:05 am on 21 November 2023
A shot from US comedian John Oliver's segment on New Zealand's Bird of the Year.

Comedian John Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight on 5 November. Photo: Screengrab

British comedian John Oliver has used his first show since the pūteketeke's landslide Bird of the Century victory to gloat over the result.

Oliver's input into the competiton ruffled a few feathers, but saw donations to organiser Forest and Bird soar.

Boosted by the publicity, the conservation organisation received $600,000 in donations associated with its Bird of the Year competition - six times higher than its previous record set last year.

Forest and Bird chief executive Nicola Toki said the level of generosity from donors around the world was overwhelming.

It came at a crucial time for the charity when there were more threats than ever facing the country's wildlife, she said.

Appearing on his American TV show Last Week Tonight on Sunday (US time), Oliver was estatic over the result.

"We didn't just win this by a little, we won it by a lot....for context the pūtekeke got over three times as many votes by itself as all the other top 10 birds got combined.

"When you talk about historic all time levels of dominance the conversation now begins and ends with Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, Serena Williams and the pūteketeke."

Everything about the way New Zealand handled the contest was perfect, Oliver said.

He referred to a speech by a representative of the Breakers basketball team conceding on behalf of the kea.

But the real winner, Oliver said, was the pūteketeke itself.

"Pūt, my old friend, none of this would have been possible without your Sid Vicious-esque hairstyle, your feather bone puking, or just how weird you are at sex. You are a deeply weird bird and I think at the end of the day that's what people responded to. That, and just how fun it is to say your name."

"So, let me say this loud and proud once more. Pūteketeke today, pūteketeke tomorrow, pūteketeke for the next hundred years - we did it."

Toki said no-one could have predicted this overwhelming level of generosity from donors in New Zealand and around the world.

"When we accepted the request from John Oliver's team to campaign on behalf of one of our 'underbirds', we just thought it was a brilliant opportunity to have some fun.

"The enthusiasm and budget that he brought to the campaign were mind blowing - and unexpected."

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