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Te Manu o te Mata’iti

Te Manu o te Mata’iti – Bird of the Year is Here!

The second ever Cook Islands Bird of the Year (BOTY) competition kicks off Wednesday 27th October, run by Te Ipukarea Society (TIS). Last year, the Tanga’eo (Mangaia kingfisher) won the hotly contested title after approximately 3000 votes were cast, in the first ever competition for the Cook Islands.

This year we have a big team of campaign managers who have volunteered to promote  their favourite bird, using whatever powers of persuasion they choose, be it through art, poetry, bribery or coercion. Whatever works.

One campaign manager who is already turning it up, is Pouarii Tanner who has set up a tiktok account for her number one bird, the Kākerōri (Rarotonga flycatcher).  Po says she “believes the Kākerōri deserves to not only be Cook Islands BOTY but Rarotongan of the Year!”.

“This little cutie pie, found (naturally) only here in Rarotonga is Raro's best Environmentalist, Survivor, Employer and Trickster.  Learn more about our Kākerōri over on tiktok @thekakerori where I will be sharing interesting facts and videos over the next few weeks as part of my campaign to help make the Kākerōri BOTY 2021.”

Hareta Tiraa-Passfield has put the bat amongst the pigeons by taking the leftfield approach of campaigning for the Moā kirikiri (Pacific fruit bat).

Hareta is aware that a bat is not a bird, but given there is no equivalent Bat of the Year award we have agreed to include this entry into the competition, given that bats do demonstrate birdy behaviour.  We also note that the long tailed bat (pekapeka tou-roa) has also managed to squeak into the New Zealand competition under the cover of darkness, so our decision seems only fair.

When asked why she is campaigning for a bat, Hareta responded “Is the moā kirikiri a controversial entry? Maybe, but that’s why I’m campaigning for it. I love an underdog and that’s why I’ve chosen to campaign for the fruit bat”.

Stepping up to plate to back the Kōpeka (Atiu Swiftlet) is Paul Crombie of ChurBros.  Paul says “the kōpeka is one of the flyest birds in the tropics and get this, kōpeka use sonic sound-like waves to navigate the dark, how dope right?”

Brennan Panzarella is campaigning for the Kūkupa “the Kūkupa is shy and soft-spoken, but at the same time, very loud on the eyes. It looks like it just came from the Kara Run where white doves threw green, pink and yellow dyes at each other”. Brennan has heard a rumour that a bad boy is campaigning around town for the Myna as Bird of the Year.  He advises caution “Don’t let the bad guys win. Ko ta'au ia ka iki, te anuanua o te vaorakau, ko te KŪKUPA.”

Ana Tiraa is for the second year campaigning for the Ī’oi (Rarotonga starling) and says “the Ī’oi is a single island endemic found only on Rarotonga and nowhere else in the world. Unlike the other endemic birds of the Cook Islands, the Ī’oi has fallen into relative anonymity in recent times. Yet, Ī’oi has been included and mentioned in old literature, suggesting that it was once a visible and well known bird.

Because of its obscurity, we really don’t have a good handle on the population size of Ī’oi. It is possible that I’ōi numbers could be declining undetected.  This is one of the reasons why I am campaigning for the shy Ī’oi to be the Bird of the Year. It’s a great way to raise awareness and give attention to a special bird.

The Ī’oi maybe coy, but boy it is a joy when you do see this bird. Vote for Ī’oi”

Voting for BOTY is from Wednesday 27th October until 10th November and you can cast your five votes at www.tiscookislands.org