Bird of the Year 2021: Choose your avian champion

It's that time of the year again when the bird-fans of the nation make their picks for the avian that will reign supreme for 2021.  Te Manu Rongonui o te Tau / Bird of the Year. Voting is open from 18-31 October 2021.

And they've really put the bat among the (wood) pigeons this year with the revelation that Pekapeka-tou-roa, the Long-tailed bat is to be included. This is a controversy on par with Australia getting to be in the Eurovision Song Contest despite not being anywhere near Europe. Bird purists, myself included, have certainly had their feathers ruffled! 

But it's hard to argue that it isn't a great strategy for a) increasing awareness of the plight of our native bats and b) getting people interested (or indignant) and voting. And hopefully maybe donating.

So how will you vote? There are several factors you might want to consider:

Feathered familiarity

Catalogue record for Birds of New ZealandYou may wish to vote for one of the native species that make their home in the greater Christchurch area. Such as:


Some birds are just cuter than others and there's no point pretending otherwise.

  • Kōtuku / White heron - Long legs, brilliant white feathers. Clearly the supermodel of New Zealand native birds.
  • Kororā / Little penguin - Just adorable.
  • Pīwakawaka / Fantail - Small, spry and prone to shaking a tail feather
  • Tokoeka / Southern brown kiwi - The cutest of all kiwi. Look and those long fluffy fur-feathers!
  • Titipounamu/tuke / Rifleman - Like a little ball of floofy cute.
  • Pekapeka-tou-roa / Long-tailed bat - As the only competitor with actual fur this little brown fluff ball with delicate wings is weirdly appealing.

Rock star birds

Some species of bird have a little bit of attitude that makes them stand out.

  • Catalogue record for New Zealand birds in picturesKakaruia / Black robin - A total goth-baby. Was probably into My Chemical Romance in a big way.
  • Toroa / Antipodean albatross - Absolute stonking great wings. Huge unit.
  • Kea - If Ray Winstone were a native bird he'd be a kea - will not be scared off with a "shooing" and will eat absolutely anything it wants.
  • Rockhopper penguin - Anarchic electro-punk rocker. The Prodigy of birds.
  • Tūī - Plumage to die for and a signature song that slaps.
  • Kārearea / New Zealand falcon - Nothing cooler than a falcon AND they put it on the $20 note


Unfortunately huge swathes of native birds are endangered but some more than others. The ones that need most help include:

  • Catalogue record for Native Birds of New ZealandKākā - The parrot with the brilliant red weathers under its wings
  • Kaikōura tītī / Hutton's shearwater - Lost significant amounts of habitat as a result of the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake
  • Matuku / Bittern - Great at playing hide and seek in amongst the reeds of wetlands. Let's hope they don't disappear for good!
  • Kākāriki karaka / Orange-fronted parakeet - One of our most colourful native birds
  • Kōkā / South Island kōkako - So endangered we thought they were extinct for 40 years!

More about native birds

Catalogue record for Birds New ZealandCatalogue record for The brilliance of birdsCatalogue record for Land of birdsCatalogue record for Birdstories