These past two weeks has had everyone in a flap, as Cook Islanders flocked to the online polls to vote for our first ever Bird of the Year Cook Islands competition. Kate McKessar explains.
agreed to be the most important election of the year, this hotly contested,
battle of the birds had it all. Intense rivalry, cheating and inflated egos,
things got quite competitive as people campaigned for their favourite
got ruffled early on, when we realised that hundreds of fraudulent votes had
been cast for two birds, the Kōpeka (Atiu Swiftlet) and the ‘Ī’oi (Rarotongan
Starling). With the competition being
bright and showy, it was the breakneck rise to the top of the pecking order for
these two, quiet, unassuming birds that first raised our suspicions.
to the safe hands of our volunteer Peter Huckle, we quickly traced the suspect
votes to offshore IP addresses in Turkey and Brazil. Peter had corrected and
protected the voting system before accusations of cheating could be filed.
discovered that those same hacksters had later directed their mischief towards
NZ’s Kiwi pukupuku. Like the Kōpeka, the little spotted kiwi enjoyed some
short-lived glory in the top spot, having benefitted from illegal voting in the
Mangaian community showed some serious spirit, as they rallied behind their
much loved Tanga’eo. This kingfisher (which strangely prefers bugs to fish) is
found nowhere else in the world except Mangaia and took the crown by an
astonishing 1364 votes. Over 900 more votes than the next bird.
last minute rush from the Atiu enuamanu supporters, made for a nail biting
finish for second place. This catapulted the Kura (Rimatara Lorikeet) ahead of
the Kūkupa to claim the silver medal at the 11th hour.
to the NZ version, ours was an unsophisticated first attempt campaign. But it
still means a lot of work behind the scenes for those running the birds’ social
media accounts. Luckily for us some self-appointed bird nerds stepped up to
launch mini campaigns for their personal faves.
O’Neill chose to support the colourful Kūkupa which came out of the gates
fighting and came in a strong 3rd to finish.
Pouarii Tanner threw her weight behind Aitutaki’s Kuramo’o (Blue
Lorikeet) at one point demanding that we “Stop the count! The cute little
Kuramo'o has been robbed!”. But this
little nunbird held its own and came in a very respectable 5th place.
‘Ī’oi advocate, Ana Tiraa adopted the cause with enthusiasm. Ana took to social media to convince voters
to endorse the shy, starling once so common in Rarotonga, but which now hides
in the hills. Ana coerced her family and
friends into giving each of their five votes to the ‘Ī’oi.
in defeat, Ana was first to congratulate the Tanga’eo on its comprehensive win
and vowed “to campaign harder next year”.
Smith from Te Ipukarea Society put her money on the Kura. With ties to Atiu,
Alanna has a particular affinity for the bird and chose to dress as the Kura
bird in her Miss Cook Islands campaign.
The Kura became locally extinct in Atiu 200 years ago but thankfully a
population in Rimatara survived and was translocated back, now thriving in a
land blessed without ship rats and myna birds.
the end, no bird could compete with the mass campaign of the chunky little
Tanga’eo run by the passionate Mangaian people. The Mangaian community Facebook
pages were on fire last weekend! What a lucky wee manu.
missed it, you can still learn about the birds at our webpage
www.tiscookislands.org and see for yourself what all the fuss was about.