New Zealand is reluctant to announce that the kākāpō is to be the bird of the year for a second time. With more than 61 bird species as candidates for the title, this flightless fat parrot was able to steal the show. Also known as the ‘mighty moss chicken’, the kākāpō won bird of the year last time in 2008. People are seemingly outraged at the results. From what would appear to be voter fraud, bird of the year 2020 has become a very controversial event.
People might actually recognize this parrot as the ‘party bird’. When a video went viral of one trying to mate with a zoologist’s head. Some have argued that this campaign has been even more controversial than current politics.
However, there are still some challenges that this animal faces on a daily basis. This species of parrot is considered to be not only the largest but the longest living. Because this parrot is so large in weight, it is unable to fly. They hop along the ground using their wings as balance instead of flight. The kākāpō is also unable to make nests up high in trees, only on the ground in shrubs or bushes. They are incredibly slow breeders due to their weight as well as lack of defenses. This leaves the kākāpō completely vulnerable to predators that may be nearby. Additionally, the kākāpō’s only form of defense is to imitate a shrub with the colors of it’s green feathers. (1)
Without the help of conservationists, this endangered parrot might’ve become extinct by now. Another factor that makes it near impossible for them to hide is the male mating call. Male kākāpō emanate a loud booming call to attract females within the area. Since these large parrots are susceptible to cats, rats, and stoats, they have been relocated. People can only find this bird on islands that have virtually no predators. (1)
The kākāpō’s numbers have gone from 50, as recorded in the 1990’s to 213 today. Because of this, it has improved the overall environmental awareness of the country. However, the bird of the year has been facing a different kind of threat than predators. There has been a dangerous fungal infection afflicting the kākāpō population. Since April, 36 known birds have been transported to animal hospitals for intensive care. (1)
Bird Of The Year 2020
Having all of this said, you must be wondering, how exactly did this enlarged parrot become bird of the year in 2020? To be truthful, the competition for this title was actually a long and bitter process. In an overwhelming attempt at fraudulent voting, the kākāpō was able to steal the title of bird of the year 2020. The Antipodean albatross actually won the majority of popular votes. While the kākāpō was able to intercept victory with the help of an unfair voting system. Participants were outraged after learning that organizers had detected more than 1,500 fraudulent votes. (2)
Organizers reported 55,000 people voted during this event. This number alone is used an example of New Zealand’s endangered bird population. However, to some it’s more about the competition and politics than the birds themselves. An investigation into this matter had shown that most of the votes had come from different email addresses. However, they all lead back to the same IP address. This isn’t the first time that New Zealand has experienced voter fraud with this event. In 2018, a bird known as the shag, was given more than 310 fraudulent votes. Additionally, in 2019 there were 100 fraudulent votes for the white-faced heron. (2)
Future Bird Of The Year
Although the kākāpō had won the title unfairly, the competition is more about highlighting these endangered species of birds as a whole. New Zealand has multiple conservation groups that promote different endangered birds. The Forest & Bird organization encourages voters to look at every species and their stories as to why they should be bird of the year.
“Unfortunately, many of New Zealand’s native birds are in trouble and need your help,” Forest & Bird wrote in announcing the winner of bird of the year. “Their habitats are being destroyed or degraded by introduced predators, pollution, human development, and climate change.” (2)
Even if the kākāpō hadn’t won bird of the year, it still shouldn’t deter from the fact that it’s endangered. All of the endangered species that competed for the title are all susceptible to becoming extinct. If we are to conserve these birds and their habitats, we must be willing to help in any way we can. It’s truly hard to decide which endangered bird should take the spotlight when all of them have their own unique circumstances. However, they all share the same plights as listed by Forest & Bird. We can do our part to reduce pollution, be mindful of human development, and do our best to fight climate change. (2)
- “Endangered parrot so fat it can’t fly has been named Bird of the Year.” BBC. November 18, 2020.
- “Fat, flightless parrot named Bird of the Year after a campaign tainted by voter fraud.” CNN. Rob Picheta. November 16, 2020.