As the blossoms emerge on the trees and the parks are once again brimming with lush green life, the birds break into full song again and get their biggest acknowledgement of any time of year: Forest & Bird's annual Bird of The Year competition.
Despite the feathers that fly every year, the birds that can't keep formation and the chicks that jostle in the nest, committing everything up to and including voter fraud and sabotage, Bird of the Year is New Zealand's most wholesome obsession.
To be fair, the buzz and birdsong arrives on New Zealand social feeds by early September. But come Monday 28th of October 2019, Twitter will be fully a-tweet with Kiwis throwing their vehement support behind their favourite feathered friend for the 14th year. For the first time, the voting system will allow users to pick their top five birds in ranked order in a system known as "instant run off voting" (whereas previous years have used the "first past the post" one vote each system). Still, the loyalty and adoration is sincere and the indignation when a family member chooses another bird is very real.
The rest of the world watches on perplexed; "did you know New Zealand has an annual Bird of The Year competition? Look how into it they get!"
Whether you're Team Kererū (last year's winner), Team Kōkako, Team Orange-fronted Parakeet, Team New Zealand Dotterel (the only good, correct and polite team), or any of the others, it is a time of year where we all get together and allow our love of native birdlife to overflow from our hearts and onto our social media feeds. And if you ask me (or much of the rest of the world) our readiness to snub blood relatives online over their preference of duck to robin is an endearing display of the Kiwi love of nature.
Yet this year, as the threat of climate change looms ever closer, Bird of the Year is even more important. Whatever your loyalties, all of those birds are important, beautiful and deserving of a clean and home. The passion that we have for the birds themselves and the personalities we ascribe to them can and should be channelled into making sure they have a place to live in 50 years.
Pressure needs to be put on corporations and governments to make changes for the better or we'll left lamenting the fact that our feathered taonga have gone the way of the dodo.
This competition is a delightful reminder that whatever bird you choose, we are united by our simple, wholehearted love of birds; birds of every feather. We love our winged friends very much, so surely we love them enough to save them - even if you are going to make the horrific mistake of not voting for the stunning, deserving and terribly polite New Zealand Dotterel.
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