Surprise: Winner of Bird Contest Isn't Actually a Bird

A bat sneaks in and takes top honors in New Zealand
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2021 1:30 PM CDT

Did somebody miss a meeting? Maybe a day or two of biology class? Somehow the winner of New Zealand’s Bird of the Year contest isn’t even a bird, reports the New York Times. The winning critter has wings, for sure, but bats don’t lay eggs and they don’t have feathers and they definitely aren’t birds. The tiny pekapeka-tou-roa, or long-tailed bat, is a mammal. Every year, New Zealanders pick their favorite bird. The campaign is meant to raise awareness of the tiny nation’s native species. Elections in New Zealand aren’t usually fraught with controversy, but this one is, having weathered foreign and domestic hacking and some bat crazy behavior around the candidates, the Washington Post reports.

How did the bat get on the ballot? When you think of birds in New Zealand you think of kiwis—of course. It’s the national bird. When you think of New Zealand and bats, you probably think of cricket, which is a sport but named after an entirely different kind of animal. It’s all very confusing. Bird of the Year spokesperson Laura Keown explained that bats need help, too. “Alongside protecting our amazing native birds we want to raise awareness and help people learn about our bats as well. And when people get excited about protecting bats, well, their habitats are the same as the birds,” she told ABC News Australia. The ballot-stuffing and hacking is accepted as good fun in New Zealand, and the tweets—on Twitter, not from birds, and we apologize for the pun—tend to poke fun at Stop the Steal protests in the US. (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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