The kereru has swooped to glory for the first time in Forest and Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition.
Amassing a total of 5833 votes, the kereru, or wood pigeon, whooshed ahead early and managed to maintain a formidable lead to the finish despite strong challenges from the kakapo and the kaki, or black stilt.
The wood pigeon’s successful 2018 Bird of the Year campaign was led by a team of digital natives, who focused on the bird’s size and appetite, kicking off a meme war over which native bird is the roundest.
“New Zealanders have voted overwhelmingly for change, and the kereru pledges to honour this groundswell of popular opinion and govern for the many,” says Team Kereru co-campaigner Tim Onnes.
While the kereru population is classed as stable overall, it is in danger of becoming locally extinct in some areas where there has not been sustained predator control.
The Bird of the Year competition aims to raise awareness of New Zealand’s unique native birds and the threats they face.
This year’s competition prompted celebrity endorsements from Stephen Fry for the kakapo, and from comedian Bill Bailey for the takahe.
Bird of the Year also featured on Tinder for the first time, with Shelly the kaki attracting 500 matches across New Zealand.
There was attempted international election fowl-play when IP addresses in Australia sent through more than 300 votes for the shag, and more than 1500 for the kaki.
The competition also transcended the generation divide, with pupils from Bethlehem School in Tauranga making a video in te reo Maori supporting the kakaruia, or black robin, while a postal vote was submitted by an octogenarian who didn’t have a computer to vote online.
This year’s competition was the most popular yet, attracting more than 48,000 votes. It also gained worldwide coverage in The Guardian, the Australian Daily Mail and on CNN.