Comedian John Oliver launches 'alarmingly aggressive' campaign for Pūteketeke to win Bird of the Century, website crashes

US talk show host John Oliver has launched a global campaign for the Pūteketeke bird to win the Bird of the Century competition.

The campaign has gained so much interest, the website for the competition crashed, according to multiple reports on social media.

Forest and Bird normally run a Bird of the Year competition, but this year it's taking a step up as the organisation seeks to find the Bird of the Century to celebrate its 100th year.   

There are 75 bird species up for the title: voting opened on October 30 and closes at 5pm on November 12. The winner is announced the following morning of November 13.  

On the latest edition of his show Last Week Tonight, Oliver opted to back a ranked outsider to win in what he says could be the biggest landslide in the history of the competition.  

Oliver has thrown his support behind the Pūteketeke to win the competition.  

"The good news is New Zealand's contest is not actually restricted to just New Zealand. Anyone in the world can vote as long as they have a valid email and not just that, Forest and Bird themselves said they encourage anyone who is passionate about their favourite native bird to campaign throughout the competition and by now, I'm pretty sure you know where this is going," Oliver said on his show.  

"We hereby announce ourselves as the official campaign manager for what we believe to be the best candidate for New Zealand's Bird of the Century. I am of course talking about the Pūteketeke, also known as the Australasian crested grebe."   

Oliver then went on to list some "fun facts" about the Pūteketeke, such as how it's known for carrying its babies on its backs and its elegance.  

"You want elegance? I'll give you some elegance, they have a matting dance where they both grab a clump of wet grass and chest bump each other before standing around unsure what to do next," he said.  

"I have never identified with anything more in my f*****g life. "   

Comedian John Oliver launches 'alarmingly aggressive' campaign for Pūteketeke to win Bird of the Century, website crashes
Photo credit: HBO

Oliver said "tragically" the Pūteketeke has never won Bird of the Year - but added it never had "us campaigning for it before".   

Oliver then launched his 'Lord of the Wings' campaign, which he described as "alarmingly aggressive".  

The campaign includes advertisements in New Zealand, with a clip shown on the show of a bus stop advertisement on Oriental Bay in Wellington.   

"First we put up ads in New Zealand promoting the Pūteketeke as Lord of the Wings, which is already very exciting," he said.    

"But we did not stop there."   

He then went on to show advertisements in Mumbai and Tokyo, where there were four billboards in the centre of the city; Paris on the Champs-Élysées next to the Arc de Triomphe; a mobile ad in London; an ad behind a plane in Brazil; and in Manitowoc City in Wisconsin, US.   

"The point is we are going all out for this thing," he said. "I don't just want the Pūteketeke to win, I want it to win in the biggest landslide in the history of this magnificent competition. I want it to do to other Bird of the Century candidates what the Pūteketeke does to fish in New Zealand's lakes – that is eat them alive and then throw them back up in a ball of feathers – because frankly there is no bird on earth more deserving of the title of Bird of the Century than this one right here," pointing to a large inflatable Pūteketeke in his studio.   

Advertisement in Paris (top left), London (top right), Manitowoc City in Wisconsin (bottom left) and in Brazil (bottom right).
Advertisement in Paris (top left), London (top right), Manitowoc City in Wisconsin (bottom left) and in Brazil (bottom right). Photo credit: HBO

"This is what democracy is all about, America interfering in foreign elections. No matter where you are on earth, make sure you vote for this adorable, weird bird and together, let's make bird history." 

A Forest & Bird spokesperson told Newshub despite the website having some "wobbles" following the segment airing in the US, all the votes would be counted.

"Forest & Bird was stoked when Last Week Tonight with John Oliver approached us earlier in the year to be a campaign manager for pūteketeke, an underappreciated native bird that is 'nationally vulnerable' with fewer than 1000 left in New Zealand.

"It was so exciting to see the segment air last night. The show's commitment to backing their bird, and all New Zealand birds, was seriously impressive. We've seen a huge influx of thousands of votes overnight and our voting system had some wobbles but we can assure all voters that their votes will be counted.

"Bird of the Year has always been open to votes from people who love New Zealand birds no matter where they live in the world. If Kiwis want to see their favourite take the Bird of the Century crown, they best mobilise their friends and whānau to vote – voting closes at 5pm this Sunday."

People that want to vote for the Pūteketeke can go to