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Kākāpō voted winner of New Zealand’s Bird of the Year contest

Kākāpō
Kākāpō. Photo by Department of Conservation, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Kākāpō won New Zealand’s 2020 Bird of the Year competition, becoming the first species to win multiple times, according to the Forest & Bird agency. 

“This is the first time any bird has won the Bird of the Year title more than once, so New Zealand’s mighty moss chicken can add yet another feather to its cap,” Laura Keown, spokesperson for Bird of the Year, said in a release. It previously won in 2008.

The species used to live throughout New Zealand, however, is now only able to survive on predator-free islands. The birds were close to extinction in the 1990s with just 50 birds, but thanks to intensive conservation measures, the population now exceeds 200.

“The things that make Kākāpō unique also make them vulnerable to threats. They are slow breeders, they nest on the ground, and their main defense is to imitate a shrub. Those qualities worked great in the island of birds the Kākāpō evolved in, but they don’t fool introduced predators like stoats, rats, and cats,” Keown said.

The species was able to win despite the international albatross community rallying around the Antipodean Albatross (also known as the toroa) with the catchphrase ‘Sea Birds Not Tree Birds.’ The albatross finished second.

The contest made international headlines after organizers discovered more than 1,500 fraudulent votes for the Little Spotted Kiwi (also known as kiwi pukupuku). Before removing the illegitimate data, the kiwi topped the leaderboard but did not make the top 10 after counting the legal votes.

The agency also reported that Bird of the Year received 55,583 votes this year, the most ever.

The goal of the annual competition is to raise awareness of New Zealand’s unique native birds and the threats they face. According to the organization, 80 percent of the country’s native birds are endangered.

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