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"Robbed!" Kākāpō booted from New Zealand's Bird of the Year competition
Melissa Low
Melissa Low

"Robbed!" Kākāpō booted from New Zealand's Bird of the Year competition

Kākāpō's wings have been clipped from the title before the competition could take flight
14 October 2022 6:50PM

New Zealand's Bird of the Year is once again putting bird fans into a flap by making another controversial decision - by not letting one of our most famous birds enter.

The humble kākāpō, a flightless nocturnal bird known to be the "world's heaviest parrot" has been put "on hiatus" from entering the 2022 running because organisers Forest & Bird essentially say it's become too popular.

The competition had crowned the kākāpō twice during its 17 year run - first in 2008, and again in 2020. In the wild, the kākāpō has also found success bringing its population from the brink of extinction, from only 50 during the 1990s, to 252 today thanks to conservation efforts. 

A spokesperson for Forest and Bird told The Guardian that claims the kākāpō had been banned for good were untrue.

“No, not banned from entry. It’s a hiatus. It’s definitely not a lifetime ban,” Forest & Bird spokesperson Ellen Rykers said.

“You know, if the same bird keeps winning every year, that might make it not so interesting.”

Rykers said in an earlier statement that “Of course, the election remains fundamentally democratic”, adding that the competition was hoping “to channel … love to some of our feathered friends that may be overshadowed by their flashier, chonkier or louder cousins”.

Fans are understandably in uproar by the news, but Bird of the Year has not been shy about it's history of controversy.

In 2018, 300 fraudulent votes were cast by the Aussie attempting to get their native bird, the Australian pied cormorant (or colloquially known as the 'shag', into the competition.

The following year, hundreds of votes registered from Russia were judged legitimate after Russian ornithologists spoke up, saying that "New Zealand actually shares birds with Russia."

And last year, headlines were made worldwide when New Zealand's long-tailed bat was allowed to enter, and eventually won the Bird of the Year title.

If the kākāpō can't join in Bird of the Year, what's next? Not letting the All Blacks play the Rugby World Cup?