Bird of the Year's fraudulent votes makes international headlines

Word of Bird of the Year's fraudulent votes has made global headlines after the scandal ruffled feathers on New Zealand's shores.

Forest and Bird revealed on Tuesday it discovered 1500 extra votes all made using fake email addresses from the same IP address.

The votes briefly pushed the kiwi pukupuku to the top of the leaderboard, but those votes have since been removed.

The votes were cast between 1am and 3am on Monday and were discovered later that afternoon.

The Sydney Morning Herald said the news of vote interference "is likely to leave New Zealanders in a flap".

"It's one of the most eagerly anticipated annual votes in the land of the long white cloud," it said.

"While US President Donald Trump makes unfounded claims of voter fraud, New Zealand's annual Bird of the Year contest has actual proof of electoral interference - and not for the first time, either."

The outlet described the 2018 election where IP addresses in Australia submitted over 300 votes for the shag and over 1500 for the kakī in an attempt to interfere with the winner.

These illegitimate votes weren't counted in the final tally and the kererū came out as the winner.

CNN described Bird of the Year as a "lower stakes" competition compared with a traditional political election, but also said it has a history of "turning heated".

"The candidates have feathers and the policy platforms are non-existent... And just like a regular election, there are concerns over keeping the vote fair," it said.

It also said it's common for "human political leaders" to back the feathered candidate of their choice, pointing out that sex toy retailer Adult Toy Megastore endorsed the Hihi since it practices "consensual polyamory".

This year's Bird of the Year competition isn't the first to make global headlines. Last year The Washington Post covered the contest after there was speculation about possible interference from Russia.

Forest and Bird said 335 people from Russia attempted to vote, but for their choice to be counted towards the final result, they needed to register an email address. Only 193 voters from Russia did.

Kiwi pukupuku, or the little spotted kiwi.
Kiwi pukupuku, or the little spotted kiwi. Photo credit: Newshub

Bird of the Year spokesperson Laura Keown said after this year's election interference that all birds have to play by the rules to win.

"All of our birds deserve a fighting chance, especially this little manu, our smallest kiwi, which is so threatened by predators that it is extinct on mainland New Zealand outside of predator-free sanctuaries," she said.

"If you really love the kiwi pukupuku, get out and campaign for them in Bird of the Year. We don't want to see any more cheating."

Kiwi pukupuku campaign manager Emma Rawson said "voter fraud is not the kiwi way".

"As Aotearoa's national emblem, little spotted kiwi represents New Zealanders' values of democracy, fairness, equality, and honesty," she said.

"We don't condone the illegal votes cast towards our cute little bird."  

Voting is open until 5pm on Sunday and anyone in the world can cast a vote for their favourite bird.