6 Oct 2015

Who will win Forest & Bird's Bird of the Year 2015

A special bird - New Zealand Black Petrel.  Photo by Karen Baird
New Zealand Black Petrel. Photo by Karen Baird
By Mike Britton

The annual New Zealand Bird of the Year competition has kicked off again by the BirdLife New Zealand partner, Forest & Bird.  This year 50 bird species are all vying for the `top bird' Crown.  Started by the late Helen Bain, Forest & Bird's former Communications manager as a bit of fun, the competition has rapidly become an important way to promote New Zealand's unique and often very threatened bird species.  As with most bird species in the whole Pacific the biggest threat to New Zealand's birds are invasive predators and building the communities appreciation of the taonga (treasure) that these birds represent is important in getting the support and resources to protect them and control the predators.

Last year the competition was a special one focusing on sea birds in recognition of the recently completed New Zealand Marine IBA Report.  The enigmatic and criticaly endangered Fiji Petrel snuck in to the competition and alsmost won, in the lead for most of the time but just pipped at the post after a big local push (by Forest & Bird) for the New Zealand Fairy Tern, also a critically endangered special bird.

This year there are no obvious favourites but it may swing back to one of the old favourites, Kiwi, kea, kokako or keru (New Zealand wood pigeon).  But our favorite is the New Zealand Black Petrel ​Procellaria parkinsoni ,  the special sea bird that is familiar to users of Auckland's Hauraki Gulf.  Its nesting sites on mainland New Zealand have gone due mainly to invasive predators like feral cats and pigs, mustelids and rats.  But they are also the most at risk sea bird from both commercial and recreational fishers, Forest & Bird, with help from BirdLife and the RSPB is working on to reduce the by-catch of these special birds.  Their sponsor in the completion is BirdLife's Pacific seabird coordinator. Karen Baird, and if you want to do your bit to support New Zealand birds, and we hope the Black Petrel please go on to Forest & Bird's website and vote.