Kea named New Zealand's Bird of the Year

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A kea in the wildImage source, Alan Liefting
Image caption,
Behold the kea, New Zealand's favourite bird

The kea has overcome vote-rigging and online trolling to be named New Zealand's Bird of the Year after two weeks of heated campaigning.

While last month's New Zealand election means Jacinda Arden is set to become prime minister, the country's citizens have been involved in this other hotly-contested vote with - admittedly - not quite such far-reaching consequences.

Dubbed 'the clown of the mountains', the green mountain parrot took the title for the first time in a poll run by the country's Forest and Bird organisation, which attracted 50,000 votes and the attention of the world's press, the New Zealand Herald reports.

"We literally went out to every single person we knew and asked them to vote kea. We lobbied hard to get votes up on the first day, which I think made a big difference, " Team Kea organiser Laura Young said.

The vote was intended to raise awareness of the country's endangered wildlife, and organisers Forest and Bird say that there are as few as 3,000-7,000 kea left in the wild. Their inquisitive nature means that they are sometimes struck by cars, get stuck in human-made objects, or become ill from human food fed to them out of misplaced kindness.

The dark side of democracy

Image source, Gull for Glory
Image caption,
The dark side of the Bird of the Year vote

The competition ran into trouble from the off, with a fan of the white-faced heron being caught registering 112 votes on the first night of the poll, causing Forest and Bird's Kimberley Collins to note "We're not mad, just impressed that someone cares enough about New Zealand's native birds to rig the competition."

With the campaign becoming increasingly heated, a seagull fan set up the Instragram account "Gull for Glory", aiming expletive-filled and humorous memes at its rivals.

But despite the light-hearted rough-and tumble, the victors at Team Kea say they were pleased with their clean campaign, but could not resist a dig at their rivals.

"We're proud to say we ran a peaceful campaign compared to many other birds. There were no attack politics from Team Kea, we just did our own thing and went at it hard," Dr Young said.

Among those rivals were the New Zealand Green Party, whose senior officials made a video throwing their weight behind the keruru, which eventually came second.

Finishing off the field was the New Zealand Scaup (or papango), which only managed 80 votes compared to 7,311 for the kea.

But the controversies seem to have increased participation in the poll, with numbers up by 150% over 2016. It also resulted in NZ$10,000 ($,000, £5,255) in donations to Forest and Bird.

Image source, Tony Willis
Image caption,
Behold the scaup, New Zealand's least favourite bird

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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