New Zealand Bird of the Year – Part 2

From Fairy Terns to Parakeets

New Zealand’s Bird of the Year Poll – the middle years Part 2: The winners 2010-2014   

In the first of this small series of blogs about New Zealand’s Bird of the Year poll (Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau) which has been run annually since 2005, I introduced the most recent five winners and then sought to match them with stamps that New Zealand had issued. This next set presents more winning birds and stamps and follows the same pattern, rolling backwards with each year’s winners. This time it’s the batch of five between 2010 and 2014.

In 2014 the Tara iti or Fairy Tern was the successful bird chosen. There are three sub-species found in the south-western Pacific and the one that breeds in northern New Zealand – the New Zealand Fairy Tern (Sternula nereis davisae) – is listed as critically endangered. Indeed, it is New Zealand’s rarest native breeding bird and it is believed that there are only about 40 birds remaining, nesting at very specific locations in North Island. Its status is highly precarious. In 2018/19 there were believed to be only five breeding pairs left with the sub-species threatened by introduced predators, weather, tidal conditions and coastal developments.

Regrettably, there is just a single stamp featuring the Tara iti, appropriately issued also in 2014 as part of a series of singles and a mini-sheet of endangered seabirds.


3 thoughts on “New Zealand Bird of the Year – Part 2”

  1. I enjoyed reading both parts of this article on New Zealand “Bird of the Year”. It is striking how often human economic activity – in this case farming – leads to damage to the survival of particular birds (in this instance, the New Zealand Falcon). It is also depressing to read that rats have also threatened the status of the Yellowhead. Alongside humans, rodent predators appear to be the second most important cause of population decline. Of course, it is the humans that transported the rats and mice in the first place to the various locations (often islands) where they had not previously been present.

    Great work, thank you!

    1. Steve,

      Many thanks for your comments. And your assessment of the reasons these species are threaten and have been in decline is correct. The re-occurring theme that arose whilst researching each bird was that their numbers dropped due to human interventions. This could have been through land clearances for agriculture, thereby destroying natural habitats, or, quite often, through the introduction of predators that were previously absent.

      The Fairy Tern is the stand-out most threatened species as their nesting sites – beaches – in just a handful of locations have been threatened by development activity. These lovely birds are going to disappear without drastic interventions.

      There is more to come in Part 3 with the first five years of the Bird of the Year poll.

      Best wishes,


      1. And the 2020 winner?

        It’s the Kakapo. Again! The Guardian has perhaps unkindly described it as the fattest parrot in the world.

        When Part 3 is posted you’ll see it was also the winner in 2008. And again I then mentioned that it was endangered primarily due to predators, but the “mighty moss chicken” as the parrot is also fondly known, is also critically endangered due to a fungal disease, Aspergillosis.

        It is good to see it win a second time around and, given its critically reduced numbers, a deserving winner too!

        Mel West

Leave a Reply