A bat was just named NZ Bird of the Year. Next year, the contest could really spread its wings.
An important part of New Zealand’s journey to some semblance of normalcy is a return to our rightful place as “source of quirky news stories”, and so it is with the announcement this morning that the Bird of the Year competition had been comfortably won by – well, by a bat. Victory for the long-tailed bat (pekapeka-tou-roa), reports of which are being prepared for the downpage picture slot on newspapers around the world at this moment, is a paradigm-busting event, providing hope to non-birds across the country that they too could be named the Bird of the Year.
Anything is on now, really, but here are our top contenders.
While most Aucklanders have been grounded, the leader of the opposition has flown. From Auckland to Wellington, to Auckland, to Wellington, then to Auckland and to Wellington again. Truly Collins is the godwit of New Zealand politics.
The Canterbury Panther
Not particularly birdy, sure, but the bat made the list in part because it is endangered, and the Canterbury Panther is so endangered it probably never existed at all.
The all-star, media-saturated Bird of the Year is run by Forest & Bird. How do you think that makes the forests feel? Can’t be long before we get our moment in the sun, they were assuredly saying to one another across the breeze, then the next thing you know it goes to a bat. To right that wrong, we nominate Waipoua, part of the largest remaining tract of native forest in Te Tai Tokerau and home to the big guy Tāne Mahuta.
Bats Theatre, Wellington
New Zealand’s greatest theatre, by many wingspans. It has repeatedly cheated extinction, living beneath the stomp of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. Plus it’s the egg from which Flight of the Conchords hatched. And it has hosted Wellington flock music troupe Fly My Pretties.
Endangered, native, beautiful, has a big presence on the web.
If Time can make “you” the person of the year, then Forest & Bird can make the Bird of the Year Ordinary Kiwis. This entry expressly excludes people who say, “Ordinary Kiwis don’t want to hear Maori words.”
Arguably not a New Zealander; inarguably more of a New Zealander than a bat is a bird. Add the New Zealand cricketing Crowe family and we have a powerful group entry.
In the foothills of the mighty Remutaka Range, Featherston is a book lover’s utopia, home to the Hero of the Hill locomotive, Wits End Herb Shop and C’est Cheese Artisan Cheese & Deli. Should the town win Bird of the Year it will adopt the slogan Featherston, where you put your feathers on.
Just like the tūī, Ruby is dynamic, beautiful and blessed with incredible comic timing, as evidenced in probably the greatest sporting interview in our history.
Sorry, but it is New Zealand’s most popular bird.
Dame Margaret Sparrow
Is there a more beautiful sight to behold than a giant human curled up like a foetus plummeting joyously towards the water? Yes, there are quite a few, but this is also very good. Give the Bird of the Year to the manu, part art, part sport, all Aotearoa.
Especially the chirpier artists, eg Headless Chickens, Phoenix Foundation and, naturally, the Bats.
The Mosgiel sign
It’s a great sign.
Quasi the giant hand
Ronnie Van Hout’s digital artwork teeters today above the City Gallery like a tribute to the fingers of every New Zealander trying to book an MIQ spot. Does it fly? How else did it travel from its original perch at the Christchurch Art Gallery? Does it blink? Exactly. Is it a bird? Pretty much, insofar as it carries with it the great unspoken truth: we humans stare up there and we know, somewhere inside us, that just like the birds, were Quasi and friends to get just a little bit smarter and organise, they would destroy us all in minutes.
An earlier version of this article stated that Featherston was home to C’est La Vie Cheese. The cheese merchant is in fact called C’est Cheese. Many apologies; cheeses wept.