Bird of the year - why I've flipped

9:32 am on 9 October 2017

First Person - RNZ business editor Gyles Beckford admits he is an unlikely champion of any bird, but is putting forward his support for the hoiho - the "engagingly comical" penguin - for Bird of the Year.

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RNZ's Gyles Beckford and Allison Ballance kick off their campaign for hoiho for Bird of the Year Photo: RNZ

I'm an unlikely champion of a bird - any bird.

For more than a year I've lamented, lambasted, and lampooned an avian tide of shrill, squawking, shrieking seabirds. The hate mail has slowed to a trickle, but I watch my back at the beach and the wharf.

US poet Emily Dickinson said loving birds was economical because it saves going to heaven.

I remember breaking up bread for the ducks at the pond and gulls at the docks, there were the millet sprays for the sunbright canary, which sang like Pavarotti on speed.

The budgie always devoured the cuttlefish but never repaid the favour by saying he was a pretty boy, and the cockatoo had the odd name of Ibite, until I painfully realised it was a warning.

I've forgiven their indiscretions.

The kingfisher put paid to the goldfish in the garden pond, the kereru have crapped on the car once too often, and the currants and the apple tree get battered beyond recognition.

But the cheerful rosellas; the larrikin kaka; the tumbling, wheeling, coupling tui; the nesting blackbirds; and the ever present sparrows, fantails, and waxeyes that fill my backyard make me stop, watch, and wonder.

Why don't birds wee? Why is distance measured by what the crow flies and not another bird? Why do we have a parliament of owls, but a murder of crows, and an exaltation of larks? Couldn't birds fly in some other formation other than a V?

A yellow-eyed penguin at Moeraki

A yellow-eyed penguin at Moeraki Photo: AFP / RICHARD ROBINSON / Cultura Creative

I was surprised to be asked to have another go at the bird of the year contest after my nest-stuffing, vote-rigging attempts of last year.

I've been cajoled into dipping my toe in the water, in alliance with RNZ's ultra-knowledgable, award winning, community honoured Alison Ballance.

Having spent so many years of my working life waiting with other journalists at news conferences, stakeouts, police lines, bars, it seems appropriate to back a bird that huddles.

So the yellow-eyed penguin, the hoiho, it is. Home grown, endangered, and engagingly comical.

Many of you may be mistakenly under the impression it's a seabird.

But it's a land lubber. It just likes a good swim and sea food. And that makes it a real kiwi.

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