Bird of the Year – who to put your money on!

Sirocco the Spokesbird —  09/10/2012

Skrraaaarrk! When it comes to choosing which bird to back you’ll never go wrong putting your money (or in this case vote) on kākāpō. However, in my official role as Spokesbird for Conservation, I thought I should be a little less biased. So today, filled with benevolence, I’m going to profile some of the lesser contenders for 2012 Bird of the Year.

And what better place to start than the native birds on that rare species – New Zealand’s bank notes…

Yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho

A New Zealand $5 bank note featuring a Hoiho/Yellow-eyed penguin.

Yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho

Kākāpō and hoiho are more similar than you’d think: We’re one of the world’s rarest parrots and they’re one of the world’s rarest penguins. We mostly live on small islands around the south of New Zealand, and so do they (although they’ve got a colony on the Otago Peninsula just out of Dunedin too). We’re also both flight challenged, but make up for it with dashing good looks.

Blue duck/whio

A New Zealand $10 bank note with the Whio/Blue duck.

Whio/Blue duck

Kākāpō aren’t the biggest fans of water (although I have been known to take a dip), but whio are built to swim. While the fast flowing mountain streams are too rough for most ducks, whio love these hectic habitats and can easily negotiate rapids, boulders and logs in these swift currents. Whio are reluctant flyers, but I say flying is overrated anyway!

New Zealand falcon/Kārearea

A New Zealand $20 bank note featuring a Kārearea/NZ falcon.

Kārearea/New Zealand falcon

I may hold the title of New Zealand’s biggest show-off, but kārearea aren’t far behind. They can fly, and love to rub it in, with acrobatics and speeds of 230 km/hr. Boom! And with vision six times more powerful than a human and a terrifying scream, usually executed before descending on its prey, kārearea are a force to be reckoned with.


A New Zealand $50 bank note featuring a Kōkako.


Even I don’t mind admitting, kōkako are beautiful singers. Once upon a time kākāpō and kōkako use to run into each other all the time, but the introduction of pests saw both our species start to disappear – the South Island sub-species hasn’t been seen since 1967 – skrraaaaarrk!


A New Zealand $100 bank note featuring a Mohua/Yellowhead.


Like many of us natives, a few hundred years ago mohua were quite common. They weren’t built to survive rats and stoats though, and now this beautiful, bright bird is counted among New Zealand’s threatened species. Luckily, they’re quite good at reproducing (unlike a certain large, green, flightless parrot :<>) so, if we can get rid of the nasties that have caused their decline, then mohua have a good chance of recovery.

Mohua in a tree: photo from the Department of Conservation.

Mohua/yellowhead in a tree.

So there you have it, a quick profile of some of the competition that kākāpō are up against for Bird of the Year. Remember to vote before October 10 and let me know in the comments what your favourite New Zealand bird is (after the kākāpō of course!)

5 responses to Bird of the Year – who to put your money on!

    Anne Coplestone 15/10/2012 at 4:35 pm

    Unclear what it is I’m being asked

    Anne Coplestone 15/10/2012 at 4:34 pm

    And My money, (my vote anyway) stays with the Bellbird.
    Is there any info on population numbers of this beautiful songster?


    We would be remiss not to consider the Ruru, seeing as the Ruru is currently in third place.


    Meh money, so much talk about money, what we need is a bird that gets people talking, a charismatic bird that makes its presence known and argues for more funding to save all our birds. What we need is for you to vote Kākā, the People’s Parrot, to become Bird of the Year!

    Thanks to hard working DoC staff and volunteers charismatic kākā have been making a raucous return, everyone loves their cheeky charm and aerial acrobatics.

    Even if you like another bird, a vote for the kākā will help bring the strut back into New Zealand birdlife – it is a vocal champion for protecting all of our native species and has led by example by enthusiastically repopulating Wellington.

    Vote Kākā, the People’s Parrot!


    Guys, it’s Tieke-Twelve, year of the Saddleback. Watch the video and vote Saddleback