100 years, 75 species, 5 choices, 1 winner...
In 2023 we will not vote for Bird of the Year. Oh no, this year we elect a Bird of the Century. The big event marks the 100-year anniversary of Forest and Bird and an opportunity to (kind of) bring one species back from extinction.
If there's one thing Jurassic Park has taught us, it's that bringing back an extinct species is dangerous. Yet this year, Forest & Bird have brought back five extinct native bird species to campaign for Bird of the Year. The mātuhituhi / bush wren, tutukiwi / South Island snipe, huia, piopio, and whēkau / laughing owl are ‘campaigning’ for your vote.
Topflite have supported this important New Zealand election for many years now and like to think we’ve got a pretty good eye for picking a winner. Here are our top picks for favourites this year.
1. KeaYes, the Kiwi is a great national icon. However, if you want a bird with a personality that truly represents our country, look no further than the kea. Cheeky and curious, intelligent and inventive, strong and social, the kea encapsulates many of our more unique national characteristics. Will you cast your vote for the world’s only alpine parrot?
For an extinct bird the huia sure has inspired a lot of recent paintings, the odd book publisher, plenty of design and fashion, and even the odd famous set of earrings. Perhaps it’s the female’s incredible bill or the distinctive orange wattle. It could be the distinctive feathers, which are nowadays incredibly rare and (an auction in 2010, sold a single huia tail feather for NZ$8,000, making it the most expensive feather ever).
Famous for fronting the $20 note and for being New Zealand’s only falcon, the majestic kārearea can often be found circling the skies of the high country of the South Island. Voted Bird of the Year in 2012, could this election result provide a return to top standing? We wouldn’t rule the karearea out. After all, how many other birds can fly up to 230km/h and easily catch prey mid-flight?
4. Mātuhituhi / bush wren
Last seen in 1972, the mātuhituhi / bush wren was a small, nearly flightless bird that once lived on all three main islands of Aotearoa. After the last North Island bird died in 1955, and the last South Island bird in 1968, all survivors on Big South Cape Island were relocated to Kaimohu Island in 1964. Will you vote to honour the memory of the little bird with the big heart?
Is this the year the kōkāko emerges on top of the voting? Far more importantly, is this the year the supposedly extinct South Island kōkāko emerges from the bush? The former would be noteworthy, the latter momentous. That’s because the hunt has gained renewed focus in recent years. Listed as extinct until 2013, the South Island kōkāko is now classified as ‘data deficient’. You can watch a cool documentary on this fascinating bird here.
Voting for Bird of the Century will open at 9am on Monday 30 October 2023 and run for two weeks, closing at 5pm on Sunday 12 November 2023. The winner will be announced the following morning on Monday 13 November 2023.
Vote for your top five favourite birds from 75 species by clicking here.