Every year, New Zealand holds a Bird of the Year competition to help raise awareness of the country's endangered birds — such as the kiwi, kea and kakapo — and the threats they face.
This year's competition has been extremely heated, with an aggressive campaign from kereru supporters, and reports of a person casting more than 100 votes for the white-faced heron.
Things really came to a head last week though, when the country's national bird, the kiwi, was labelled a "fat, flightless f**k."
The fruity description came from an Instagram account called @gullforglory, which is campaigning for the black-billed gull to be the 2017 New Zealand Bird of the Year. It's also worth noting that while all of this was happening New Zealand was in the midst of a political crisis, as the nation went over three weeks without anyone in charge after no party secured enough seats to form a majority government.
The "fat flightless fuck" claim immediately caused an uproar and a fight soon broke out online.
Some people said it was a mere statement of fact.
While others quickly came to the kiwi's defence.
The New Zealand Herald spoke to the guys behind the @gullforglory account — rugby commentator Scotty Stevenson and cricket commentator Mike Lane — who said there was nothing incorrect about the statement.
Lane and Stevenson also denied they were trolling the other birds, such as the white-faced heron, which they called "racist", and the New Zealand pigeon (kereru), which was labelled an "overweight tree rat."
Kimberley Collins, Bird of the Year Coordinator, told BuzzFeed News the response to the competition had been intense, but given the New Zealand people's relationship with birds, this was not surprising.
"New Zealand is a land of birds," she said. "We have 168 species. What's interesting is that we don't have any native land mammals other than two species of bat, so birds are a huge part of New Zealand, and part of our identity. We call ourselves Kiwis ... We all have a story to tell about a bird."
Collins said that although she receives a few messages and emails of frustration each year, 2017 has seen her inbox flooded with people asking why their bird isn't included in the competition, or "why the albatross species are split up".
"For us, Bird of the Year is an opportunity to show people how many of our native birds are at risk. They are in crisis. It's a silly campaign with a serious message and if there's one thing people can take away it's that they can make a difference to protect their nation's birds."
New Zealanders are living for the drama and noted that this was exactly what kiwi politics is all about.
And were glad to see that the media was covering the real issues.
For most kiwis, however, it was just another reason to love New Zealand more.
Voting results for the Bird of the Year competition went dark on Friday night with the kea ahead. Voting closes on Monday evening. A nation — no, a world — holds its breath ...
The results of the competition were announced on Tuesday morning, with the kea taking the title of the Bird of the Year for 2017.
The large green mountain parrot received more than 7,000 votes to put it in first place. This was followed by the kereru with 4,572 votes, and the kakapo with 2,554 votes.
The black-billed gull received 896 votes, while the kiwi received 646 votes.
Kassy Cho is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Kassy Cho at email@example.com.
Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.
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