Bird of the Century: Breakers' Cheeky the Kea concedes defeat to pūteketeke in hotly contested online vote

NZ Breakers mascot Cheeky the Kea has graciously conceded defeat, after the pūteketeke or Australasian crested grebe took out Bird of the Century honours in an online vote conducted by Forest & Bird.

The campaign took on a highly competitive edge, when American comedian John Oliver threw his resources behind the eventual winner, which he described as "weird puking birds with colourful mullets".

"We are going all out for this bird," 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.

Breakers Cheeky Kea at the Breakers All-Star Celeb Slam basketball match at Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand. Thursday 26 November 2020. © Image by Andrew Cornaga /

"After all, this is what democracy is all about - America interfering in foreign elections."

Oliver sponsored billboards around the world, promoting the pūteketeke and competition organisers were forced to delay the result announcement two days, after being bombarded by votes.

In the final analysis, the winner received more than 20 times as many votes (290,374) as its nearest rival - the North Island brown kiwi (12,904) - with the kea (12,060) a close third.

In an emotional concession, Cheeky - perhaps the most visible of his kind - pledged his species would rally from this setback.

"Over the last week, I have been spearheading an election campaign for kea as Bird of the Century," said Breakers chief executive Lisa Edser on Cheeky's behalf.

"This morning, it has been necessary to concede this election and while it is not the result the kea community wanted, it is now important we all get behind the pūteketeke.

"Regardless of how you view the bird, as a feathered friend, they have our support moving forward, and all I ask of you kea fans is you get behind and support the clear winner on the day."

John Oliver supports the pūteketeke on The Tonight Show.
John Oliver supports the pūteketeke on The Tonight Show. Photo credit: Getty Images

Those are sentiments our politicans would do well to embrace, as they struggle to form a functioning government after last month's general elections.

"We, the kea, will be back," promised Edser/Cheeky. "This is just a bump on our road to eventual victory."

Cheeky will be back in action on home court, when the Breakers host - ironically - Illawarra Hawks at Spark Arena on Sunday.