A bat has swooped in "by a long way" to win the annual bird of the year award, causing a great upset for New Zealand birds but a triumph for one of the country's few native land mammals.

The bat among the birds was an unexpected entry this year, according to Forest and Bird, the election's organizers. The pekapeka-tou-roa, or long-tailed bat, is one of the country's two bats and one of the world's rarest animals. When it is born, it is the size of a bumblebee and as little as a thumb.

The polls closed on Halloween night, which was also the end of the voting period. On Monday, Lissy Fehnker-Heather of Forest and Bird revealed the prize on RNZ's Morning Report.

She stated that the pekapeka-tou-roa won by 3,000 votes over the avian flock and that this year's competition had the most overall votes in the tournament's 17-year history. "We received roughly 58,000 votes from all across the world," she remarked.

New Zealand lesser short-tailed bat
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

"No, bats are New Zealand's only native land mammals, and they are classified as nationally critical," Fehnker-Heather responded when asked whether the bat's admittance was a prank. "However, they face many of the same challenges as our native birds. Therefore this year, we decided to attempt to raise awareness about it."

According to her, rats, possums, stoats, and cats are all severe threats to the species, with the population dropping at a rate of about 5% every year. Powerful backers may have aided the bat in the polls: The pekapeka campaign has received support from New Zealand's Ministry of the Environment.

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Kakapo vs Pekapeka

The kākāpō, the world's only nocturnal and flightless parrot and last year's champion came in second. The tītipounamu, or rifleman, came in third and was regarded by Māori as the gods' messenger.

Fourth place went to Kea, the world's only alpine parrot, notorious for wrecking automobiles and being extremely intelligent. Finally, the Antipodean Albatross, one of New Zealand's biggest seabirds, came in fifth place. The yearly tournament is not without its share of controversies.

Controversial Competition


Hundreds of ballots from Russia arrived in the United States in 2019, prompting accusations of election manipulation. However, the votes were eventually deemed valid, and a Forest and Bird official speculated at the time that Russian ornithologists may have been involved.

Forest and Bird claimed that 300 fraudulent votes were cast in the online voting by Australians trying to rig the race in the shag's favor the year before.

"It wouldn't be Bird of the Year without a scandal," Fehnker-Heather said when asked if other vulnerable flying species, such as bees might be featured in future competitions.

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