Otago Daily Times

Best of the birds


NOW that the entree — the US election — is (effectivel­y) over, it is time to move on to the main course.

If you think the BidenTrump clash was awash in controvers­y, allegation and tension, and that it divided a nation like no other issue, you have seen nothing yet.

We refer, of course, to that annual debate that keeps New Zealand in a vicelike grip during a twoweek voting period, and beyond — when the results are analysed and examined, the victor questioned, and the entire democratic system cast into doubt.

It is nearly time to crown the Bird of the Year.

A trivial matter, yes, but tell that to the passionate supporters of the mighty toroa, the cheeky kea, the endangered whio, and the good old kiwi.

Tell the advocates for the hoiho, which last year staged a stunning late run to become the first seabird to win the coveted title, that the yelloweyed waddlers have been doing a yearlong victory tour for nothing.

Voting closes at 5pm on Sunday, and there will soon after be a new champion of the New Zealand avian world, and it will bring new meaning to the lives of whichever breed claims the crown.

That is, of course, if we do not get bogged down in an Americanst­yle mess of slow counting and controvers­y, if we do not get birdbraine­d protesters yelling ‘‘stop the count’’, and if the hoiho does not refuse to vacate the top spot on the podium.

Already, there have been signs of skulldugge­ry. Competitio­n organiser Forest & Bird this week reviewed about 1500 fraudulent votes that had been cast in the state of Pennsylvan . . . in online voting for the little spotted kiwi. They propelled the pukupuku to the top of the leaderboar­d, but were subsequent­ly removed.

As the campaign enters its final days, we implore all bird fans to respect the democratic process, and to use their single vote (well, technicall­y five) with suitable discretion and sincerity.

The competitio­n, which started 15 years ago when the tui was the inaugural winner, now attracts global interest.

Last year, the BBC reported breathless­ly on the ‘‘antisocial penguin’’ — the hoiho — that claimed victory. This week, the Guardian has been covering the issue, highlighti­ng an adult toy store’s endorsemen­t of ‘‘a small, polyamorou­s bird with unusually large genitals’’, the hihi (stitchbird).

There are reports the toroa and the kakapo — it won in 2008; that would appear to put the boomer out of the running as, oddly, there have been 15 different winners in 15 years — led the early voting.

The Otago Daily Times has no dog in this fight, if you will pardon the crossspeci­es reference. We imagine our readers would be delighted if any of our local birds — the toroa, the shag, the little penguin, the ‘‘mighty, majestic, fearsome’’ harrier hawk — were to come out on top.

In a year that has delivered so many challenges, the Bird of the Year comes as welcome light relief. Let’s enjoy it, whichever bird wins.

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