Every year, the registered charitable organization Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc.—aka "Forest & Bird"—asks the public to determine Aotearoa New Zealand's bird of the year. Well, this year the organization is turning 100 and to celebrate its birthday, they're asking for help to determine the "Bird of the Century." On the contest website, they ask, "Which New Zealand native bird from the last 100 years has captured your heart?"—will it be the Reef Heron? Black-billed Gull? Morepork? Yellow-eyed Penguin? North Island Brown Kiwi?
You can vote for five birds. Here were my choices:
Takahē. Conservation Status: In serious trouble. Known as the bird which became alive again, the takahē was thought to be extinct for 50 years until 1948. There are now recovery programmes to prevent the extinction of New Zealand's biggest flightless bird.
Kuaka/Bar-tailed Godwit. Conservation Status: In some trouble. Breeding in Alaska, the kuaka return to Aotearoa and eastern Australia each year with about 80,000 of their whānau. These troopers take the longest non-stop flight of any bird because they do not rest or feed on the sea. Even more amazingly, young birds make the same journey at just four months old.
Tawaki piki toka/ Eastern Rockhopper Penguin. Conservation Status: In serious trouble. Who says you need arms to climb almighty rock stacks? The Eastern rockhopper tackles rock mountains with the determination and grit of Hillary. Its population has declined by 30% in the past 30 years, so it needs your support for survival!
Tōrea pango/Variable Oystercatcher. Conservation Status: Doing OK. Variable oystercatcher is the party leader species representing all of the adorable oystercatcher species in Aotearoa. Always focused on food, the variable oystercatchers work the beach and mudflats. Opening bivalve shellfish is tough when you are twisting with a bill or hammering a hole in the shell. Watching the adults teach their young this skill provides a constant source of amusement.
Kōtuku ngutupapa/Royal Spoonbill. Conservation Status: In some trouble. Royal spoonbills are immediately distinguishable by their long, black, spatulate bills. You may see them in shallow wetlands, hunting for crustaceans and aquatic insects. When they have caught something, they lift their bill up and let the morsel slide down their throat.
Even if you don't care about voting, you should visit the contest website, which provides a treasure trove of information about over 75 native New Zealand birds—you can even listen to their songs!
Forest & Bird's mission is "To defend New Zealand's wildlife and wild places—on land and in our oceans." Learn more about the organization on their website.