It’s a fierce fight each year for which native bird will be crowned the top of the flock. 2019 is no different with the campaign efforts growing larger and bird bickering louder than ever.
With a new voting system, Forest & Bird added a new layer to the hotly contested competition of the year – instead of one bird, pick five. Throw in the Guardian Australia trying to out-bird New Zealand, invading the #BirdOfTheYear hashtag on Twitter with their own competition, and you have one exciting Trans-Tasman debate over birds for two full weeks of the year.
All anyone can talk about is birds.
Which bird will nab the top spot?
Who are your top 5 birds?
Does the kākāpō really deserve to win with the backing of Stephen Fry and his 12.7 million Twitter followers?
As the government agency working to conserve all New Zealand’s native birds, we can’t pick just one. We’re a neutral player and leave it up to the public to decide which species will reign supreme. However, we can give notable mentions to some top campaign efforts by some very passionate bird lovers in the form of their witty and absurd memes.
In no particular order, the top birb memes of 2019:
“The hobbits were small too, and look at what they accomplished.” – Twitter / @alliegrce
The tomtit/miromiro is small yet mighty amongst the top BOTY 2019 contenders. The New Zealand tomtit looks much like a robin, he’s cute with a large head, short bill and tail, and lives in forest and scrub. He’s also (apparently) part of the Fellowship of Smol Ones – but will he be the Lord of the Birbs in 2019?
As Team Rockhopper so perfectly put it: “The bird wars saga continues.”
The penguins are making their mark on this year’s Bird of the Year 2019. With the “best eyebrows in the competition,” the rockhopper has a committed team behind them. Easily identified by their spiky yellow crested feathers (eyebrows), black back, white front and orange-brown bill, they are the smallest of the crested penguins.
The rockhopper is under pressure due to low food availability and climate change, along with predation by sea lions and fur seals.
The hoiho campaign has been everywhere – stickers, badges, t-shirts and TV coverage – and at the time of writing, they’ve nabbed the most #1 votes with the new voting system yet are still behind the kākāpō in the overall rankings.
But with some of the best memes in the competition, the Vote Hoiho team may knock the kākāpō off the top spot in the final hours with the backing of the penguin coalition (ft. Rockhopper, Tawaki and Kororā).
The hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin is thought to be one of the world’s rarest penguin species. They’re in significant decline due to human interference, habitat destruction, predation and disease.
The banded dotterel or “bandie” is a campaign based on an important factor: cuteness.
Despite being all adorable and floofy, the bandie is in serious decline, disappearing from many sites throughout New Zealand due to introduced predators preying on eggs and many chicks, juveniles and adults.
It’s hard not to throw in a vote for the blue duck when there’s dabbing involved.
The blue duck/whio are a taonga species that Māori have a strong cultural, spiritual, and historic connection with. They’re found nowhere else in the world, and rarer than some species of kiwi.
Whio used to be widespread through New Zealand, now the populations are patchy and isolated due to low reproductive success, flooding and predators.
Vote NZ Robin/Toutouwai
Another one for the smol birds. The New Zealand robin contingent are throwing shade on last year’s winner, kereru, in support of the small but mighty of New Zealand’s native birds, including the tomtit and black robin.
The robin/toutouwai is known for being friendly and trusting around humans. However, when it comes to predators, the NZ robin is in decline – a significant proportion of chicks are killed at night and many eggs, nestlings and fledglings destroyed.
Voting for Bird of the Year 2019 closes Sunday, 10 November at 5pm. With two thirds of our native birds threatened with extinction, Forest & Bird’s Bird of the Year celebrates our unique birds and with each vote you help give them a voice.
This competition brings me such joy, and a lot of laughs – despite the fact that our bird situation isn’t much of a laughing matter these days. Thanks Forest and Bird for all you do to protect our wonderful wildlife. It’s deeply appreciated.