Yellow-eyed penguin waddles to the top, wins Bird of the Year

The yellow-eyed-penguin has been voted the Bird of the Year.
The yellow-eyed-penguin has been voted the Bird of the Year. Photo credit: Getty

The yellow-eyed penguin, also known as the hoiho, has won 2019's Bird of the Year competition. 

The hoiho - the first ever seabird to win the title - beat the kākāpō, black robin, banded dotterel and piwakawaka, also known as the fantail. 

Forest & Bird spokesperson Megan Hubscher said the hoiho, which got 12,022 votes, and second-place kākāpō were neck-and-neck. 

"It was so close between these two amazing endangered birds, it was impossible to predict a winner for most of the competition."

Last year the kererū (wood pigeon) got about 50,000 votes.

Top five:

  • Hoiho, yellow-eyed penguin
  • Kākāpō
  • Kakaruia, black robin
  • Ttūturiwhatu, banded dotterel
  • Pīwakawaka, fantail

With only 225 pairs of hoiho remaining on mainland New Zealand, the hoiho is the world's rarest penguin. 

It faces many threats from global warming and the fishing industry. They are often caught in fishing nets, and face extinction through changes in food availability, disturbance from humans and bottom trawling damaging feeding grounds. 

The hoiho gained support from Dunedin rockers The Chills, former Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and their current mayor Aaron Hawkins.

The Bird of the Year 2019 competition quickly gained popularity through the internet. This was shown in memes where the hoiho was most likely to take a date to McDonald’s for a Fillet-O-Fish while the kererū was accused of being drunk and not fulfilling last year's campaign promises.

Ms Hubscher said  "Bird of the Year has become a national passion, and that's thanks to everyone relentlessly and ruthlessly promoting their favourite bird's weirdest qualities to the globe."