A mammal is about to win New Zealand's Bird of the Year contest

If a mammal can dominate a bird of the year contest, you can do anything.

The non-bird taking the contest by storm is the long-tailed bat, or pekapeka-tou-roa, an endangered species. It is the first mammal in the competition's 16-year history, and it's bringing people out to the (online) polls. As Boaty McBoatface and Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin or the Slovak bridge named "Chuck Norris" show us, online voters like jokes.

Bats are not birds— they evolved to fly separately (flight has evolved at least four separate times). The bats' inclusion in the contest has sparked controversy.

This isn't the first dispute the New Zealand Bird of the Year contest has seen.

In 2019, the arrival of hundreds of votes from Russia sparked claims of election meddling. The votes were ultimately judged legitimate, and a Forest and Bird spokesperson said at the time that interest from Russian ornithologists may be responsible. "New Zealand actually shares birds with Russia," they said at the time. "We have the bar-tailed godwit that makes an annual round trip."

The Guardian