John Oliver-endorsed pūteketeke wins New Zealand’s Bird of the Century

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Tuesday we reported that John Oliver was trying to rig New Zealand’s Bird of the Century competition. Today we can report that John Oliver successfully rigged New Zealand’s Bird of the Century competition. Pūteketeke won!! In a landslide victory!! There were 278,000+ votes between winner pūteketeke and the runner up, kiwi. That’s right folks, the national bird of New Zealand came in second as New Zealand’s Bird of the Century. But before you cry fowl (I know, I’m sorry) at Oliver for election interference, a few things to consider: for one, it was perfectly legal for non-New Zealanders to vote. Them’s the rules. Secondly, if you’re suggesting that pūteketeke doesn’t deserve this, how DARE you! Furthermore, this ornithological contest was already a hotbed of controversy long before Oliver spent HBO’s money on it, as CNN points out:

The votes are in for New Zealand’s Bird of the Century poll and the winner by a significant margin, getting more than 290,000 votes, is the Australasian crested grebe, better known as the pūteketeke or the ‘puking’ bird championed by comedian and talk show host John Oliver.

“It began as an outside contender but was catapulted to the top spot thanks to its unique looks, adorable parenting style and propensity for puking,” wrote conservation charity Forest and Bird in a statement on Wednesday local time announcing the results.

New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi, came in second with 12,904 votes while the kea, a species of large parrot often described as one of the most intelligent birds in the world, landed in third with 12,060 votes.

“We’re not surprised these charming characteristics caught the eye of an influential bird enthusiast with a massive following,” the group said, referring to HBO host Oliver’s “high powered campaign,” which caused online voting systems to crash.

Originally launched in 2005, the annual competition aims to raise awareness about New Zealand’s native birds, many species of which are threatened, on the brink of extinction or already extinct due to habitat loss and human activity.

But it has also stirred controversy in recent years with allegations of “voter fraud” in 2020 and by crowning a bat the winner the following year.

“Pūteketeke deserve to be Bird of the Century in 2023 because their numbers have been slowly increasing… It’s great to have a successful bird as an ambassador for all New Zealand birds to show that even threatened species can bounce back if we give them a hand,” the group added.

[From CNN]

A bat. A bat won Bird of the Year in 2021. (Yes, it’s usually “Bird of the Year” and not “Century.” My best guess for the upgrade is a tie in to this year being Forest and Bird’s centennial as a conservation group.) In any event, I expect more from you, New Zealand. Naming a bat best bird is the kind of dumb sh*t we Americans get up to.

But the real gold is in the infamous voter fraud of 2020. A parrot, the kākāpū, unexpectedly won for a second time. While not explicitly against the rules (much like non-locals being allowed to vote), it still ruffled feathers (that’s the last one I’ll do, I swear!). In their reporting on the incident in November 2020, CNN said “A lengthy and bitter election campaign… came to an unlikely end on Monday, when a fat, flightless and nocturnal parrot stunned pundits to claim an upset victory.” If the kākāpō’s description reminds you of someone in particular, that’s on you, not me. The kkākāpū has also been documented on camera non-consensually humping a zoologist. While Stephen Fry watches.

So congratulations once again, pūteketeke! You are a fine specimen of an avian. But I can’t really put it better than John Oliver himself: “They are weird puking birds with colorful mullets. What’s not to love here?”

Photos credit JJ Harrison via Wikipedia. Steffi Wacker and Roberto59 on Pexels and Getty

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16 Responses to “John Oliver-endorsed pūteketeke wins New Zealand’s Bird of the Century”

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  1. ThatsNotOkay says:

    Love everything about this. Ab-so-lute-ly EVERYTHING!

  2. LeaTheFrench says:

    Sometime you just need some light hearted news, and this one made me smile. Plus, honestly, it’s a cute bird ☺️

    • BeanieBean says:

      John was not wrong! That is the best bird!

    • Agreatreckoning says:

      This @LeaTheFrench. Light hearted news and fun between all particpants. As a Wisconsinite a couple of hours away from Manitowoc, loved this. Manitowoc is a very welcoming and charming city. The puteketeke?(sp) fits right in. Beautifully mulleted birds.LOL

  3. Flowerlake says:

    LMAO, I didn’t know this was a thing, but reading it, I know that is not the kind of discussion you innocently want to step into as an outsider.

    Any seemingly harmless question like: “But what does it matter this much if this or that bird wins?” might cause a backlash that has you running for the hills.

    By the way, I really like these non-celebrity articles lately.
    Keep them coming, please.

    • Emma says:

      Im from NZ, trust me, we love stoking this kind of adsurd low stakes high drama. 😊 Thats our sense of humour.

      • Agreatreckoning says:

        D@mn, I get it it and fully appreciate the jovial aspect of it all. This election is fun!!!

  4. Bumblebee says:

    Who knew such a small country could bring so much drama? Lol. And that is a pretty bird!

  5. Nanea says:


    Pūteketeke FTW!

    I especially like how they carry their young ones on their backs in the water, ferrying them around like swans do too.

  6. samipup says:

    1. those are gorgeous photos. 2. he brought attention to the plight of all struggling birds and other wildlife. 3. made people happy and smile, our world desperately needs more joy to *enjoy* (punning is contagious) lol. Win Win Win. thanks for this story.
    how about a punning thread..?

  7. AJ says:

    The video with Stephen Fry is hilarious! I laughed out loud. That bird was getting it!!

  8. AnnaKist says:

    I live in Australia, married a Kiwi, so NZ is my home away from home. if you have never been take the plunge._ I promise you, it is worth the long-ish journey_

    What a hoot! I love this story so much. It’s such a great word to say, isn’t it? Pu-teke-teke. Just be sure to pronounce *e*as the short E as in *egg*. Don’t be lazy and make the mistake of pronouncing the last e as an *i*. There is another Māori word, teki, but it is a very rude word and might get you a slap!

  9. AnneL says:

    I loved John Oliver describing the Puteketeke mating rituals. They present each other with clumps of wet grass, bump chests and then stand around “like they don’t know what the f**k to do next.” He said he felt so seen…..

  10. ML says:

    It looks like a bird here in the NLs called a grebe. They’re really good divers and carry the young chicks on their backs hidden under their wings. Good choice!

  11. bisynaptic says: