WELLINGTON — The puteketeke, a bird that pukes, grunts, growls and has bizarre mating rituals, won New Zealand’s (NZ) bird of the century title in a competition where American-British comedian John Oliver’s involvement has ruffled some local feathers.
The Bird of the Year competition — billed Bird of the Century in 2023 to celebrate environmental organization Forest & Bird’s centenary — is an annual event where people vote on their favorite New Zealand bird.
In 2023, the American-British comedian Oliver exploited a loophole in the system that allows anyone to vote from anywhere for a bird.
Taking on the role as campaign manager for the burnt orange-mulleted puteketeke, Oliver asked people to vote for the bird on his weekly show, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to promote it and erected campaign signage in capitals.
Campaign managers for other birds called foul, calling on New Zealanders to get involved and vote for other birds including the kakapo parrot and the national bird, the kiwi.
“We promised controversy but didn’t quite expect this. We’re stoked to see the outpouring of passion, creativity and debate that this campaign has ignited,” said Nicola Toki, chief executive of competition organizer Forest & Bird.
As a response to perceived “American interference” in the bird election, New Zealanders turned out to the polls in force.
The competition received a record more than 350,000 verified votes from 195 countries crashing the verification system and delaying the results for two days.
Ms. Toki said thousands of votes had to be discarded as fraudulent including 40,000 votes cast by a single person for a penguin. Another person from Pennyslvania cast 3,403 votes for their choice with one arriving every three seconds.
Following news that Oliver’s pick had beaten out the competition, New Zealand’s prime minister-elect congratulated him on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The puteketeke eats its own feathers to line its stomach and then vomits to expel parasites, makes grunting and growling sounds, and engages in mating dances such as the “weed dance” where the birds offers each other water weed and the “ghostly penguin” where they rise chest to chest while walking on water. — Reuters