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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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|
*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.