John Oliver finally addresses Bird of Century win after pūteketeke 'pandemonium' hit NZ

US comedian John Oliver has finally addressed the pūteketeke's landslide victory in the Bird of the Century competition, revealing he is thrilled about it.  

On the latest edition of the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the US host applauded the win, stating "we didn't just win this by a little, we won this by a lot".

"Everything about the way New Zealand handled this contest was perfect," Oliver said.

"Forty-five valid votes were cast by people giving the name John Oliver, all for the pūteketeke," he laughed.

"My favourite response came from the NZ Breakers - a professional basketball team who's mascot was campaigning for the kea parrot."

He said the response from Breakers CEO Lisa Edser "really met the gravity of the moment".

"I'm with Cheeky the kea, he's not able to speak today," Edser told Newshub last week.

"Whilst it's not the result the kea community wanted, it's important that we get behind the pūteketeke," she continued.

Much to Oliver's amusement, he described her response as "magnificent", laughing alongside his audience.

"For the fact that someone had to set up the backdrop and invite journalists to this very important press conference for the line 'He's not able to speak today' as if the kea is normally a real chatterbox, but is too broken to comment right now," he said.

"This has been tremendous fun, and there is really only one more thing for us to do right now. It's time for a victory speech," he continued.

Oliver appeared dressed in a pūteketeke costume, beside another, three times the size.

"We never could've anticipated the outpouring of support," he said. "This election represents collective wishes of good, bird-loving people from 195 countries."

Comedian John Oliver appeared in full costume beside an even bigger pūteketeke.
Comedian John Oliver appeared in full costume beside an even bigger pūteketeke. Photo credit: Home Box Office

The pūteketeke was announced as the winner last Wednesday after Oliver and his team launched an "alarmingly aggressive" campaign for the bird's victory. 

Over 350,000 verified votes from 195 countries were cast, which made it the biggest turnout of any Bird of the Year competition. The previous record stood at 56,733 verified votes in 2021, when the pekapeka-tou-roa (long-tailed bat) claimed victory. 

Until now Oliver had not publicly acknowledged the win, or the extent of the campaign after it was flooded by what Forest and Bird said was a "massive influx of votes". 

At the time Oliver said he "just wanted the Pūteketeke to win, I want it to win in the biggest landslide in the history of this magnificent competition." He also launched a series of swipes at rival the kiwi, saying it was a "rat carrying a toothpick".

The vote authentication panel had been so swamped with votes from abroad after Oliver paid for advertisements in Mumbai, Paris, London, Tokyo and other cities that the result had to be delayed by two days. 

The pūteketeke received 290,374 votes, taking nearly 15 times as many votes from its nearest rival. 

The North Island brown kiwi came in second with 12,904 votes – 277,470 votes behind the pūteketeke. The kea came in third with 12,060 votes. Rounding out the top five was the kākāpō in fourth and the fantail in fifth. 

But not all the votes were verified, with Forest and Bird revealing thousands of fraudulent votes had to be discarded during the counting process. 

This included 40,000 votes cast by a single person for the tawaki piki toka/eastern rockhopper penguin: Forest and Bird said this individual appears to have been inspired by the rockhopper appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. 

Another person from Pennsylvania in the US cast 3403 fraudulent votes, with one arriving every three seconds. 

Forest and Bird told RNZ on the weekend that donations associated with the campaign were "several times higher" than previous years.