The puteketeke, a bird that vomits, grunts, growls and has bizarre mating rituals, won New Zealand’s bird of the century competition after comedian John Oliver intevened in campaigning.
Oliver launched what he called an “alarmingly aggressive” campaign to crown the puteketeke the winner of the annual contest, run by environmental organisation Forest and Bird.
His efforts included erecting billboards in Paris and Tokyo, asking viewers to vote for the orange-mulleted bird and promoting it on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
He exploited a loophole in the system that allows anyone to vote from anywhere.
It’s not the first time support from abroad has ruffled feathers. In 2019, a flurry of votes from Russia sparked suspicion of election tampering, but Forest and Bird later said the votes were legitimate.
The competition received a record number of verified votes – more than 350,000 from 195 countries – crashing the verification system and delaying the results for two days.
The puteketeke began as an “outside contender”, Forest and Bird chief executive Nicola Toki said, “but was catapulted to the top spot thanks to its unique looks, adorable parenting style, and propensity for puking”.
“We’re not surprised these charming characteristics caught the eye of an influential bird enthusiast with a massive following,” she added.
Thousands of votes had to be discarded as fraudulent, including 40,000 votes cast by a single person for a
penguin, Ms Toki said.
Another person from Pennsylvania cast 3,403 votes for their choice with one arriving every three seconds.
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Campaign managers for other birds called foul on Oliver’s campaign, calling on New Zealanders to vote for other birds including the kakapo parrot and the national bird, the kiwi.
But the puteketeke came out streets ahead with 290,374 votes. In second place, the brown kiwi had 12,904 votes.
The puteketeke eats its own feathers to line its stomach and then vomits to expel parasites.
It is also known for making grunting and growling sounds, and engaging in mating dances such as the “weed dance” where the birds offer each other water weed and the “ghostly penguin” where they rise chest to chest while walking on water.