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Pūteketeke wins 'Bird of the Century' thanks to John Oliver

The pūteketeke, an Australasian crested grebe, has a population of fewer than 3,000 spread across New Zealand and Australia.
Pūteketeke wins 'Bird of the Century' thanks to John Oliver
Posted at 5:47 PM, Nov 15, 2023

The pūteketeke has claimed the title of New Zealand's “Bird of the Century” following some voter intervention from comedian John Oliver.

In a landslide victory, thanks to Oliver's global campaign for the endangered, weird-looking bird with a colorful mullet, over 350,000 votes poured in from nearly 200 countries, with the pūteketeke taking 290,374 total votes. 

The high turnout crashed the voting system, causing a two-day delay in announcing the results.

“After all, this is what democracy is all about," Oliver said. “America interfering in foreign elections.”

The annual “Bird of the Year” event is aimed at raising awareness about New Zealand's native birds and their endangered status, but it was renamed “Bird of the Century” this year to commemorate the conservation group Forest and Bird's 100-year anniversary.

So of course, as a bird lover himself, Oliver found a loophole in their voting system that allowed anyone to become a bird campaign manager, and for anyone with a valid email address to vote.

Not only did he put up billboards and flyers in New Zealand to promote voting for his favorite “puking” bird, but he also put them up in Paris, Tokyo, London, India, Brazil, and Wisconsin.

“Congratulations to campaign manager @iamjohnoliver and all those who gave their support to the Pūteketeke,” New Zealand's incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon wrote on X. “@Forest_and_Bird have again done a great job raising awareness for New Zealand’s native wildlife during this campaign — thank you for defending nature and giving a voice to conservation in the great way you do.”

Controversies aren't new to the contest. 

According to the group, in 2020 some voter fraud took place when 1,500 fake votes for the Kiwi bird were found, and a bat won two years ago as it was considered part of a bird family. 

This year, the group halted 40,000 fraudulent votes from a single person who voted for the eastern rockhopper penguin, and 3,403 fraudulent votes from someone in Pennsylvania. 

SEE MORE: Research team finds endangered mammal that hasn't been seen in decades

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