Bird of the Year – Loving Aotearoa

I love that I live in a country where there is a competition for ‘Bird of the Year’. Right now, around New Zealand, there are teams and campaigns promoting the attributes of our native birds; from the famous kākāpo creeping around the dark undergrowth of Whenua Hou off Stewart Island, to the rambunctious tui mimicking the sound like urban car alarms and flitting about our suburbs – all with the aim of taking out this prestigious title.

I love that I live in a country where we count the kea among our most treasured taonga. These are birds with attitude, stealing drink bottles from tables at a café, moving road cones, investigating hubcaps with their beaks. I love the bright red feathers they keep secret under their wings, showing them off only when in flight.

I love that I live in a country with the kererū. They look like they’re wearing white bloomers and suspenders over their green bodies. I love that, thanks to the work of many hundreds of volunteer trappers and planters, kererū are so prevalent, you can even see them sitting on street lights over Ngauranga Gorge where four lanes of State Highway One meet Wellington City. My wife and I often hear a ruru or morepork at night – in Aro Valley, only a five-minute walk from Wellington’s CBD – and the kākā who grace the backyards around Zealandia are now commonplace visitors in our trees and on our deck at home.

I love that I live in a country where conservation takes place in backyards, in urban spaces, in busy streets, not just in the backcountry where our rarest birds live. The day before the election I went into Polhill Reserve with volunteers who have brought back a piece of beautiful native bush and their trapping efforts are giving the birds, the insects and the ecosystem there a chance to thrive. And all this within twenty minutes’ walk from the Beehive.

This year, the theme of conservation week is ‘love my backyard’. This year, the Greens are backing team kererū because I want to see more of this clumsy, lovable, pantaloon-wearing bird as I walk to work in the morning, in the backyards of my neighbourhood, and in all of our lives.