New Zealand’s favourite bird


Have you ever wondered what is New Zealand’s favourite bird? Forest & Bird ask this question annually, but their ‘Bird of the Year’ competition is skewed by the unashamed lobbying of passionate bird lovers, along with alleged multiple voting, leaving us none the wiser as to what is our true national favourite.

Mohua (yellowhead) - the 2013 'Bird of the Year'. Image: Glenda Rees, NZ Birds Online

Mohua (yellowhead) – the 2013 ‘Bird of the Year’. Image: Glenda Rees, NZ Birds Online

The New Zealand Birds Online website was launched a year ago, and provides an independent and objective measure of which bird we most want to know more about – if that can be interpreted as our favourite species. The website has a separate page for each of New Zealand’s 461 bird species, including all fossil, extinct and vagrant species (i.e. those that occasionally reach our shores from distant lands).

There were over 264,000 visits to the website in its first year, providing a huge dataset for which bird’s page was visited most often. There was much speculation on which would be the most popular bird, but in the end the winner was far ahead of the pack.

The top 20 bird species viewed on NZ Birds Online in the first 12 months after its launch

The top 20 bird species viewed on New Zealand Birds Online in the first 12 months after its launch

The runaway winner was the tūī, with 14,969 views. Perhaps appropriately, it was also the inaugural (2005) winner of the ‘Bird of the Year’ poll.

A tui photographed in Dunedin. Image: Criag McKenzie, New Zealand Birds Online

A tūī photographed in Dunedin. Image: Craig McKenzie, New Zealand Birds Online

The top seven species were all native land birds that regularly occur in or near one or more of the major cities, suggesting that contact with native New Zealand birds is the major driver for people to look them up on New Zealand Birds Online. While the tūī was the clear leader, the second placed bellbird (8755 views) was closely followed by shining cuckoo (8276), fantail (8145), kākā (7784), morepork (7731) and pūkeko (7633).

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A bellbird photographed in Dunedin. Image: Craig McKenzie, New Zealand Birds Online

In contrast, kiwi (of which there are five species) were well down the pack. Being our national bird did not translate into viewing statistics, with the most viewed kiwi species (North Island brown kiwi) managing only 3305 views, and all kiwi combined mustering 8696.

The North Island brown kiwi was the most viewed kiwi species, but was only the 32nd most viewed species. Image: Rod Morris (Department of Conservation), New Zealand Birds Online

The North Island brown kiwi was the most viewed kiwi species, but was only the 32nd most viewed species overall. Image: Rod Morris (Department of Conservation), New Zealand Birds Online

The most-viewed introduced bird species was the eastern rosella in 8th place (7466 views), followed by song thrush (6926), blackbird (5617) and California quail (5202) among the top twenty.

Eastern rosella - the most-viewed introduced species on New Zealand Birds Online. Image: Josie Galbraith, New Zealand Birds Online

Eastern rosella – the most-viewed introduced species on New Zealand Birds Online. Image: Josie Galbraith, New Zealand Birds Online

Kākāpo (5235 views) was in 15th place, but was the leading species among those never or rarely found in cities (followed by kea with 4741 views, and long-tailed cuckoo with 4602).

Kakapo - out of sight, but not completely out of mind. Image: Dylan van Winkel, New Zealand Birds Online

Kākāpo – out of sight, but not completely out of mind. Image: Dylan van Winkel, New Zealand Birds Online

If we look at the nine winners of the ‘Bird of the Year’ poll, six of them were among the top 20 most-viewed species on New Zealand Birds Online. In order of the number of views, they were:

Species Bird of the Year NZ Birds Online views Rank
Tūī 2005 14,969   1
Fantail 2006    8145   4
Pūkeko 2011    7633   7
Kārearea (falcon) 2012    5734 11
Grey warbler 2007    5726 12
Kākāpo 2008    5238 15
Kiwi* 2009    3305 32
Kākāriki* 2010    2143 52
Mohua (yellowhead) 2013    1854 61

*The viewing figures for ‘kiwi’ use the North Island brown kiwi viewing stats (see above), and the ‘kākāriki ’ figures are based on red-crowned parakeet (the most-viewed parakeet species). If all six parakeet = kākāriki species are combined, there were 5622 page views.

It will be interesting to see how long it is before bellbird, shining cuckookākā and morepork feature as ‘Birds of the Year’.

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8 Responses

  1. Glenda Rees

    An interesting analogy.

    Reply
  2. Peter Fryer

    What about Tieke , surely the most active and vocal of our forest birds just amazing to watch them working their way through a patch of bush

    Reply
  3. michae Mclare

    I am surprised that the kokako wasn’t even mentioned. I believe it has a clearer tune and is more beautiful than the Tui.Just my opinion

    Reply
  4. Daryl Neal

    In with agreement with Cheryl Skinner. For the first time in 11-12 years the wood pigeons (Kereru) have not appeared to plunder my guava tree here in the Kaipara.
    While unaware of their significance as native tree seed carriers their drunken antics once gorged have been missed.

    Reply
  5. Andrea Grael

    I agree! And I missed the Takahe among cited birds, very endangered specie as well…

    Reply
  6. Aydee

    As much as I like the New Zealand Birds Online website, I don’t think the number of visits to their individual bird pages is a more accurate claim as to what may be NZ’s favourite bird than Forest and Birds’ annual competition. It’s a great tool identifying birds in our environment – and that probably happens a lot when visitors to that site look up the birds they encounter in their surroundings, hence the high ranking for more common birds. How many people are lucky enough to get to see kakariki or mohua and then wanting to find out details?

    Reply
  7. cheryl skinner

    Sad to see the Kereru so low on the list ,when he is the most important of all in distributing the larger seeds of our Native forests.

    Reply

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