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New Zealand votes tipsy pigeon bird of the year

New Zealand votes tipsy pigeon bird of the year

  • 15 October 2018
Image copyright Forest & Bird
Image caption Forest & Bird presenting this year's winner: the kereru

New Zealand has voted for its bird of the year 2018 and it's one known for being "drunk, clumsy and a bit of a clown", organisers say.

The kereru has a liking for fermented fruits, which contain alcohol.

And that means the birds can get quite tipsy at times, displaying clumsy antics and falling off trees.

This year's campaign saw celebrity endorsements from actor Stephen Fry and comedian Bill Bailey, while one species even had a Tinder profile.

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The kereru is one of the few native birds in New Zealand that is not endangered.

What kind of bird is it?

"They have quite a reputation of being large and clumsy and being a bit of a clown," Megan Hubscher of Forest & Bird, the conservationist group that runs the annual vote, told the BBC.

The bird loves fruit and depending on the season, these fruits might be fermented. Hence, the bird will get drunk.

"There are a lot of videos around of kereru getting drunk and stumbling around in a comical manner," Ms Hubscher laughs. "That's part of the charm. they're just very loveable birds."

Image copyright Forest & Bird
Image caption The kereru is of the few native birds that's doing ok

The kereru is found all across New Zealand and in most areas is doing well.

"It's only some parts where there's not enough predator control that introduced species like rats or possums will eat their eggs or their chicks while they're still in the nest," explains Ms Hubscher.

But that's the exception: "Only one in five of the country's native birds are doing ok. That means 80% are threatened with extinction and so they do need a lot of focus and attention."

Why choose a 'bird of the year'?

The whole campaign to elect a bird of the year is run by Forest & Bird to draw attention to New Zealand's birds and the threats they face.

This time round, the vote received quite a bit of attention from around the globe.

Celebrity endorsements saw Stephen Fry for instance back the kakapo - of which there are only 150 animals left - while Bill Bailey supported the takahe.

Another bird, the kaki or black stilt, had its campaign team set up its very own profile on the dating app Tinder, where it got some 500 matches across the country.

Sadly, that's a lot more than there are kaki around - only 123 known adult birds live on the South Island.

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Ms Hubscher says the annual campaign to vote for a bird of the year has really taken off and each year gets bigger.

Celebrity endorsements, Tinder profiles and politicians throwing their weight in are all a case in point.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was quick to congratulate the kereru even though she had been rooting for the taiko, or black petrel.

There's a special connection with birds in New Zealand says Ms Hubscher. The kiwi is a national symbol and there is a strong sense that the unique environment with its many native species is part of the country's identity.

"We even have birds on all of our banknotes so that certainly is something special. It's something that really catches the imagination of people."