The pūteketeke, a rare and endangered water bird that lives in wetlands and has a distinctive booming call, has won the title of New Zealand’s Bird of the Century, a contest organized by the conservation group Forest and Bird to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the country’s Wildlife Act.
The pūteketeke, also known as the Australasian bittern, received a record number of votes, more than 50,000, after US comedian John Oliver launched a global campaign for the bird on his show Last Week Tonight. Oliver praised the bird’s unique features, co-parenting style, and mating dance, and urged his viewers to vote for it. He also bought billboards and hired planes in several countries to promote the pūteketeke.
The pūteketeke has a colorful mullet of feathers on its head, which it uses to attract mates and to vomit when threatened. The pūteketeke is a co-parent, meaning that both the male and the female share the responsibility of raising their chicks. The pūteketeke is also one of the most secretive and elusive birds in the world. It is very hard to spot, let alone study, so scientists don’t know much about its population size, distribution, or behavior.
The pūteketeke beat its closest rival, the kākāpō, a flightless parrot that was the previous winner of the annual Bird of the Year contest, by a wide margin. The kākāpō received about 20,000 votes, followed by the tūī, a songbird with a white tuft on its throat, with about 10,000 votes.
Oliver said he was delighted by the result and hoped it would raise awareness about the plight of New Zealand’s native birds. He also thanked his fans for their support.
– John Oliver’s campaign for a ‘puking bird’ pays off in New Zealand’s Bird of the Century contest, Mithil Aggarwal, Nov. 15, 2023
– John Oliver backs ‘weird, puking’ pūteketeke as he takes New Zealand’s bird of century poll global, Serena Solomon, Nov. 14, 2023
– John Oliver is campaigning hard in New Zealand’s Bird of the Century poll, CNN, Nov. 7, 2023