RNZ is set to announce the Bird of the Year for 2018 on Monday morning. In honour of this event, and our finest dirtbag birds, Sam Brooks revives The Spinoff’s alternative contest: New Zealand’s Dirtbag Bird of the Year.
It’s that time of year again. The time of year when New Zelanders pretend birds are our friends and wouldn’t kill us all if they had the slightest inclination to. The time of year when people pretend that these creatures aren’t descended from dinosaurs, the same creatures that hunted Laura Dern in Jurassic Park.
Will the Bird of the Year be the kea? Will it be the bar-tailed godwit, which is what my mother would often call my grandmother? Will it be the fantail, the universal betacucksoyboy of the bird world? I care not.
What I care about are our cursed Dirtbag Birds. You know these birds. They steal your chips. They fly in your face because they want to eat your eyes. They shit on you, on your car, on your children’s car, and on your children’s children’s car. They are not our friends, they merely inhabit the same cage that we call Planet Earth.
And so, I present to you the 2018 Dirtbag Bird of the Year. Vote for your choice at the bottom, and the results will be revealed Monday, to coincide with the equally as official RNZ Bird of the Year poll.
Look at her. Look at that wench.
The magpies are the gold-diggers of the bird world, the literal, actual gold-diggers. Except they don’t dig for gold, they snatch it from you. As someone who likes to venture into the world as gilded as a doomed Russian princess, the magpie is my natural and mortal enemy.
Magpies recognise themselves in mirrors, you guys. Think about how terrifying that is for a moment. It’s delightful when your dog thinks it’s another dog in the ranchslider, and you laugh because it is cute, and the dog is dumb and funny.
When a magpie looks in the mirror, it looks at itself. It steels itself. It knows what it is going to kill and how. And the thing it is going to kill… is you.
Magpies also engage in the bleakly human task of killing their own young, usually for food. I’m not saying that all humans do this, or even that many humans do it, but I bet at least one human has, and that’s one too many.
Myna was an omission from last year’s Dirtbag Bird of the Year, much to the consternation of that heralded holder of bird knowledge: the Facebook commenter.
I actually can’t think of any specific myna incident, but according to scientists who know things about birds, they’re pests, but honestly that photo above is enough for me to call them dirtbags.
The myna appears to be the guy you ran into a party in your last year of high school – the one who turned eighteen before everybody else. His parents held him back because they knew that, even at the tender age at five, this dude needed all of the headstarts he could get. He wasn’t the bully at school, he was the bully’s second-in-command’s second-in-command, the guy who tags along because he has the inclination to be mean to people, without any of the actual skill to be mean to be a person.
So you run into him at this party, he’s smoking something out of a Coke No Sugar can and mumbling something about how the government’s messed everything up and he can’t wait to sell all his bitcoin stock.
The myna bird is a white guy whose friends called him Stoney but he was really born ‘Howard’.
Last year’s winner must make an appearance to regain his throne!
Lest you forget this tale of the horror that accompanies the seagull:
“You know this scene as well as any.
It’s been a hard morning at the office. You want to go outside, listen to your Beatles or your Rolling Who and have a snack. Get away from the rat race. You deserve it. So you’re sitting outside, it’s a fairly nice day, and you’re enjoying yourself. You open the packet of chips you brought from home, because you bought one of those twelve-pack ones that you’re meant to get for kids but you’ve bought them because you know if you buy a pack of normal chips you’ll eat all of them after you get home drinking one night. This is your way of controlling yourself and your drunken urges.
Then it appears.
It might only have one leg, or it might be pretending to only have one leg, because these birds have developed a terrifying knowledge of human psychology that means they know we’ll feel sorry for them if they pretend to be weaker. It looks at you with its one terrifying beady eye. It bends its neck one way. Why does it have a neck? Why does it need a neck? To what end, to what end?
You throw it a chip out of sympathy, and maybe because it’s the only affection you will get today, and it’s going to be from a creature that is barely a step, barely a shuffle, removed from a particularly shitty dinosaur. This creature launches for it. It’s now clear it has two legs and also a lot of wings and feathers and also it’s a lot bigger than you first thought it was. It might fight with another of its kind over this single chip.
And then it’ll move on, to someone else with a chip or maybe even something that doesn’t count as food but it’ll eat anyway because it doesn’t give a shit about you or what goes down its gullet. It just wants to feed. You’ll feel a bit dirty about having given away your chip. You’ll feel dirty that you got duped by this tiny white dinosaur.
You’ll go back to your office. You’ll go back to the rat race. You’ll keep buying twelve-packs of little chips. You will wonder what could have been between you and the tiny white dinosaur.”
Look at this leggy hussy.
This pūkeko is coming for your man’s, your man’s man, and your man’s man’s man. The pūkeko is the Jolene of birds, but trashier. She’s a Jolene who pronounces the last ‘ne’. We don’t shame the pūkeko for being so brazen, we shame it for its lack of remorse, for the lack of care it has for its prey.
A foreigner would see the pūkeko and marvel at its beauty, but we all know better. We know how common, how trashy, how cruel the pūkeko is. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the pūkeko plucked that eye right out of my skull many years ago.
Freddie the Cockatoo
In a shock twist entry, we have a very specific bird: My friend Mat’s parents own a cockatoo called Freddie, named after the singer Freddie Mercury, from The Rolling Stones. The bird was named before finding out that it was a girl, even though we all know that birds are non-binary spectres from another realm sent to destroy humanity and eat our chips.
Here are some facts about Freddie, courtesy of my friend Mat:
“She’s a bully. Every time I see her she tries to sprint up to me and take my glasses.”
“My parents wanted me to take it when they die, but I’ve let them know there’s absolutely no chance of that.” (Fun/terrifying fact: Cockatoos live anywhere from 40 – 60 years, but I’d wager they live even longer because have you ever seen a dead cockatoo.)
“It is a fucking nightmare.”
Here are some facts about cockatoos, courtesy of my friend The Internet:
“Cockatoos are monogamous! The male cockatoo puts on an elaborate show to attract a female. He opens his wings, spreads his tail, ruffles his feathers and raises his crest while bobbing, bouncing and dancing in front of the female. After the female accepts the male’s advances, the pair will preen each other.” Terrifying!
“Because they are showy, inventive, and affectionate, many are caged as pets.” Same/big mood/so on and so forth.
“A team of scientists from Oxford University, the University of Vienna and the Max Planck Institute conducted tests on ten untrained Tanimbar corellas (Cacatua goffini), and found that they were able to solve complex mechanical puzzles.” Let it solve climate change, honestly.
By virtue of those black, soulless eyes, and also being a bully to my friend Mat, I include Freddie on this list, because it’s my list and I get to choose who the dirtbag birds are.
Now you’ve examined the finalists, you can vote for your favourite/least favourite right here.
Votes in the Dirtbag contest close at 10pm on Sunday. The victor will be announced on Monday morning, around the time the Bird of the Year (for which voting closes 5pm Sunday) is announced on RNZ’s Morning Report.
The Bird of the Year is a very cool thing that serves to raise awareness of native birds, you can visit their site here and donate here, because lots of our native birds are in danger and should be preserved.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.