Kōkako wins Bird of the Year

(Forest & Bird)
(Forest & Bird)

The kōkako has been crowned New Zealand's Bird of the Year for 2016, after two weeks of heated competition and campaigning.

Nearly 20,000 people voted for their favourite bird, with 3614 votes going to the kōkako. The kea came in second with 2608, followed by the fantail (pīwakawaka) on 1508.

The kōkako's successful campaign was led by 16-year-old Oscar Thomas from Auckland, with help from the Rotoehu Ecological Trust in the Bay of Plenty.

"It has the most beautiful call of all New Zealand's birds and it's the loudest in the forest. It sings with a deep, five-note call that makes the tūī sound like an elaborate train wreck," says Oscar.

"I wanted to show people how special all our native birds are and what we stand to lose. Eighty percent of New Zealand's birds are classified as at risk or threatened and if we don't do anything to help them, they could be gone forever."

Bird of the Year is run by New Zealand Forest & Bird, and aims to raise awareness of our unique native birds and the threats they face.

This is the first time the kōkako has won the title - it came second to the bar-tailed godwit (kuaka) in 2015.

Best known for its deep organ-like call, the kōkako is a large slate-grey bird with blue wattles.

It was once threatened with extinction - there were just 660 kōkako left in 1999, but today their numbers have passed 3000, and populations are recovering thanks to predator control and translocation programmes.

Like many of New Zealand's native birds, the kōkako is vulnerable to introduced predators such as stoats, cats, possums and rats.