Bird of the Year: Why it’s such an important competition
Every year the Bird of the Year competition grips the nation in a wave of fun and research as we all pick our favourite flying (or flightless) friend. This year’s result has just been announced, and we couldn’t be more pleased for the cheeky Kea.
Congratulations to the Kea!
It’s no wonder how the Kea has made it into the hearts of New Zealanders around the country. This beautiful alpine parrot is native to the country, and there are just 3,000-7,000 Kea left, making it a nationally endangered species.
They are one of the most clever and inquisitive birds around, which often gets them in trouble, and is almost always the cause of laughter and entertainment when you spot one of these cheeky parrots taking off with a stolen biscuit or treasure. They are also the cause of plenty of damage, as they love to nip and tear at car parts they find in ski fields, much to the chagrin of tired skiiers at the end of a day on the mountain.
Unfortunately, the Kea’s penchant for stealing human food can do harm, as they can get sick from certain snacks. They are also vulnerable to predation by stoats, cats, rats, and possums, and the changing alpine environment may leave these beautiful parrots with fewer places to call home.
While the Kea is certainly in need of help, it’s exciting to see this species gain national attention through the Bird of the Year competition.
Why the competition is so important
Each year, the Bird of the Year competition crowns just one of our native birds as the champion. In doing so however, it also brings the media and public’s attention to many of our natives, especially those that are in danger and need all the help they can get.
With each new year, our native birds get a boost of attention as conservation groups and members of the public champion their favourite species. Plus, Forest & Bird, the group behind the annual competition, offers the option to donate to your species of choice during the campaign, helping to raise additional funds for each bird.
Last year, the winner was the Kokako, the year before, the Bar Tailed Godwit. While all birds receive some attention each year, the annual winner gets plenty of extra coverage in the media, with information about their status, threats, and more options to donate to their cause. Together, it makes for a fun and exciting annual spotlight on our native birds, where everyone gets to learn a little more about these precious species.
While we don’t see the Kea during our nature tours in New Zealand (as we are not in an alpine environment), we do have the fortune of meeting some of our country’s other native gems. Check out our eco tour options to see which birds you might meet!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist