Pūteketeke crowned Bird of the Century

2 minutes read
Posted 15 November, 2023
Screenshot 2023 11 15 092615

A pūteketeke Australasian crested grebe on a nest at Te Anau. Photo: Supplied / Oscar Thomas

With a majority of the votes, the pūteketeke Australasian crested grebe has been crowned Bird of the Century.

There was fierce competition for the title, the even saw TAHI and RNZ presenter Evie Orpe become embroiled in an ornithological stoush with US talkshow host John Oliver.

Oliver's campaign saw ads in Paris, Mumbai, Tokyo and London, and flying a banner over Ipanema beach in Brazil. As if coverage on his own show Last Week Tonight wasn't enough, he even made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in full-on grebe garb.

His campaign led to the system crashing.

Oliver's pick? The winning bird, the pūteketeke.

"Pūteketeke began as an outside contender for Bird of the Century but was catapulted to the top spot thanks to its unique looks, adorable parenting style, and propensity for puking," Forest and Bird chief executive Nicola Toki said.

"We're not surprised these charming characteristics caught the eye of an influential bird enthusiast with a massive following."

"John Oliver's wish for a landslide victory did come true," Forest and Bird's Ellen Rykers told Morning Report.

It could only be a good thing that Oliver has ignited huge conversation about our native birds, Rykers said.

She said they needed to get their ducks in a row before the second place winner could be announced.

New Zealanders were keen to defend their competition and flocked to vote. There was a record 350,000+ verified votes from 195 countries this year, surpassing the previous record of 56,733 verified votes.

Forty-five of this year's verifed votes were under the name John Oliver, with just one vote made for the fairy tern, the rest unsurprisingly were for the pūteketeke.

Thousands of fraudulent votes were discounted. One person even voted 40,000 times for the tawaki piki toka eastern rockhopper penguin.

With its burnt orange mullet, striking plumage and propensity for puking, the pūteketeke is clasified as 'nationally vulnerable'. There are thought to be fewer than 1000 of them in Aotearoa, up from just 200 in the 1980s.

Their recovery is in part thanks to efforts like the Lake Wānaka Grebe Project, after Forest and Bird member John Darby built a floating nesting platform ten years ago.

More than 80 percent of native birds are on the threatened species list.

"Pending cuts to the Department of Conservation, the agency tasked with protecting these taonga under threat, are a huge worry. The world is watching us and how we look after our birds," Toki said.

A shot from US comedian John Oliver's segment on New Zealand's Bird of the Year on 5 November 2023. Photo: Screengrab

A pair of pūteketeke Australasian crested grebe. Photo: Supplied / Leanne Buchan Photography

Screenshot 2023 11 15 092734
Screenshot 2023 11 15 092759


Related articles

Latest issue

Issue 960 Read Now

Last week’s issue

Issue 959 Read Now


Download or update to the new Queenstown App today



The Lakes Weekly is part of Queenstown Media Group (QMG).

QMG is Queenstown’s leading locally owned and operated media company with print, online and social platforms that engage locals with what they care about — everything local!

The Lakes Weekly delivers stories and news that connects with local so they come away each week better connected to their community. Advertising sits within this curated content environment, and it’s a trusted relationship between readers and the Lakes Weekly. Advertisers benefit from the association with the LWB brand values.

The Lakes Weekly is hand delivered to every business in Queenstown, Arrowtown, Frankton, Five Mile Remarkables Park and Glenda Drive on Tuesday. Copies are available in service stations, libraries and drop boxes throughout the region and every supermarket throughout the Queenstown basin and Wanaka.

Online the issue is available Monday afternoon, on lwb.co.nz and the Qtn App.


Printed copies
each week


Estimated weekly
Read the
Latest issue