Antisocial screaming penguin crowned New Zealand’s Bird of the Year

A screaming, portly penguin has been named New Zealand’s Bird of the Year after two weeks of intensive campaigning. 

The hoiho, a yellow-eyed penguin, saw off more than five contenders to become the winner, in a move that campaigners hope will raise awareness of the endangered species. 

Only 225 pairs of hoiho penguins remain on New Zealand’s mainland, making it one of the rarest penguins in the world. 

Wildlife experts say the hoiho is “very anti-social” as it spurns the company of other penguin species and emits a high-pitched scream at breeding sites when their mate returns home. 

At the final count, the hoiho received 12,022 out of 43,460 votes, and was reportedly helped by tactical voting.   

“The hoiho has made history today! In a huge upset, the hoiho has come from behind to shatter the feathered ceiling, and become the first penguin to win Bird of the Year,” wrote New Zealand’s conservation group Forest and Bird in a post on Facebook. 

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The prime minister of New Zealand congratulated the bird on its winCredit:
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

The group added that the “chonky” seabird – which is New Zealand slang for an adorably chubby or round creature – had beaten the kereru pigeon and the kakapo parrot to the prestigious award. 

The kereru is also known as the “drunken pigeon” due to its fondness for intoxicating summer fruit, sometimes becoming tipsy to the point of falling from trees. 

“[The hoiho is] a very antisocial species. They don’t nest within sight of other penguins,” Thor Elley, the director of the hoiho campaign, told the Guardian. 

He also told local media: “I’m absolutely over the moon…although I suppose that’s not a good analogy for a bird that can’t fly."

The hoiho emits a scream when its mate returns to the nest but otherwise shuns the company of birdsCredit:
Wolfgang Kaehler

The victorious hoiho also received a warm message of congratulations from New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. 

She said: “I feel inclined to congratulate the winner given it’s the first seabird that’s taken out top honours.” 

"Many of you will know my long standing commitment and support for the black petrel, so I’m hoping that this is paving the way for a future win for the black petrel,” she added, referring to another vulnerable seabird in New Zealand.