Parrot’s exclusion from beauty pageant sparks controversy

In New Zealand, voting for the Bird of the Year competition began on Monday with the anger of birdwatchers. The reason: the organizers decided to exclude the kakapo, a critically endangered nocturnal parrot from the competition; as GEO magazine reports.

The kakapo, known as the parrot owl and resembling a bowling ball with verdant plumage, had already won the 2008 and 2020 editions. Finalist in 2021 and unable to fly with its feathers too short, the bird was still the favorite of the contest this year, the verdict of which will be delivered on October 31.

Raise awareness of the situation of other birds

Faced with such a pedigree, the organizers nevertheless preferred to give less popular birds a chance this year. “The decision to leave the kakapo out of this year’s shortlist was not taken lightly,” said Ellen Rykers, spokeswoman for Forest and Bird, which is organizing the event. “We know how much people love the kakapo” but the contest “aims to raise awareness for all of New Zealand’s native birds, many of which are in dire straits,” she explained.

“We want the competition to remain fresh and interesting, and that we share the limelight a little”, underlined the spokesperson of the association, for which the competition would not be what it is “without a few ruffled feathers “.

Already controversial

This is not the first time that the Bird of the Year contest has created controversy. Irregularities have marred previous editions, whether it’s a suspicious number of Russian votes or clear attempts by Australian neighbors to rig the competition. This year, Facebook pages are defending the takahe, described by fans as a “stocky swamp hen”, and the leafy-feathered kea, two species in “great trouble”, according to Forest and Bird.

But as the vote gets underway, online kakapo supporters insist the charismatic parrot’s ban will not pass. However, a kakapo expert and representative of the New Zealand Department of Conservation believes it is important to allow other species to compete for the coveted title. Because “anything that can inspire the public to engage in conservation is a good thing”, says specialist Louise Porter, who points out that “New Zealand has a lot of fantastic birds, but, unfortunately, most of ‘among them are endangered’.

This is the case with the kakapo, even though the species has just had its best breeding season in fifty years, going from 197 individuals to 252. The kakapo is unique to New Zealand and can weigh up to four kilos.

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