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Prepared for take-off after ‘human election’

New Zealanders are getting ready to campaign and vote for their favourite native birds in the nation's most popular annual bird contest.

Forest & Bird's Bird of the Year 2020 will spread its wings for lift off on November 2.

Voting closes two weeks later on November 15, with the winner announced the following day.

“Bird of the Year was originally planned to end on the weekend of 17 October, but we didn't want to overshadow the quite important human election,” Bird of the Year spokeswoman Laura Keown said.

“Our incredible native birds deserve to have all the attention, so Forest & Bird decided to move Bird of the Year a couple of weeks after the squawking and flapping of human elections ends.”

The same as last year, New Zealanders will be able to vote for up to five of the native birds they love in order of preference.

An instant run-off voting system is applied (similar to local election voting) to determine the winner of Bird of the Year.

“This is the 15th annual Bird of the Year and we're expecting it to soar to new heights. There were 41,000 votes cast last year, with some possible godwit enthusiasts even causing a flap all the way from Russia,” Ms Keown said.

“Once again, people can vote for a whole flock of their favourite birds but we're warning that even with five votes to cast, it will still be a tough decision.

“Last year the voting system led to some really fun collaboration between birds, with the strategic Penguin Party ultimately taking out the title for New Zealand's special noisy flapper, the hoiho yellow-eyed penguin.

“This year we're already seeing alliances forming, with a few wetland waders like the bittern and fern bird getting an early start on political manoeuvring.”

Other previous winnners include the kereru in 2018, kea in 2017, kokako in 2016 and the bar-tailed godwit in 2015.

Forest & Bird's Bird of the Year is a lighthearted competition with a serious purpose of spreading awareness about the threats to New Zealand's native birds, three-quarters of which are threatened or at risk of extinction.

“Our birds face enormous threats from climate change, introduced predators, and continued habitat loss. We're asking everyone to get to know our incredible native birds by visiting www.birdoftheyear.org.nz,” Ms Keown said.

“Once you get to know the amazing songbirds, the international flyers, the stunningly colourful, the raucously noisy, and the uniquely adapted birds that live in Aotearoa, I reckon you'll want to then take action to protect them and the places they live.”

BIRD OF THE YEAR: The yellow-eyed penguin, the hoiho, was the 2019 winner of New Zealand Bird of the Year. Who will win in 2020? Picture by Henry Shields