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Bird of the Year becomes Bird of the Century

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Bird of the Century

Top, left to right: Huia by Auckland Museum Ref LB 9129 (CC BY 4.0); North Island piopio, Turnagra tanagra, collected 8 September 1900, Waitotara district, New Zealand. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (OR.000212). Bottom, left to right: South Island snipe by Don Merton/Department of Conservation Ref 10040147; laughing owl by Buthbert & Oliver Parr, 1909 at Raincliff Station, Opihi River, South Canterbury; bush wren by Don Merton/Department of Conservation Ref 10037276

The stakes are higher this year at Forest & Bird’s annual competition with the conservation organisation seeking the Bird of the Century to mark its 100th-year celebrations.

There are 75 bird species in this year’s competition, including five extinct species added to the running for the first time ever: mātuhituhi (bush wren), tutukiwi (South Island snipe), huia, piopio, and whēkau (laughing owl).

“New Zealand’s extinction record is devastating. The five extinct birds in this year’s competition are a heartbreaking reminder of the incredible biodiversity we’ve lost,” chief executive Nicola Toki said.

“Eighty-two percent of our living native bird species are threatened or at risk of extinction. We cannot let any more end up with the tragic fate of the laughing owl or the huia.”

Last year’s winner was the pīwauwau.

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 13 November 2023.

Forest & Bird is inviting applications for campaign managers to champion each of the 75 competitors.

The inaugural Bird of the Year competition took place in 2005 with a simple poll.

“In the intervening years, a simple poll has grown to become a national institution and beloved celebration of Aotearoa’s native birds,” said Toki.

“We’ve had some crazy moments: voting scandals, a bat winning, a competition favourite booted for being too popular.

“We hope New Zealanders and people around the world will get involved in the fun of Bird of the Century 2023, discover the amazing stories behind our living and dearly departed feathered friends, and ultimately be inspired to speak up for them.”

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