February 2, 2023

A New Zealand conservation charity announced its coveted Bird of the Year award has been won by the first non-bird ever entered in the competition: a bat.

The Forest & Bird conservation charity said the pekapeka-tou-roa, or long-tailed bat, was included in the list of finalists to raise awareness and support for the species, and the bat was chosen from the list of finalists by online voters.

“Kiwis clearly love their native bat,” Bird of the Year spokeswoman Laura Keown said in a statement. “A vote for bats is also a vote for predator control, habitat restoration, and climate action to protect our bats and their feathered neighbors!”

Long-tailed bats are listed as “nationally critical” by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

Forest & Bird said 56,733 votes were cast this year, the most in the competition’s history. The long-tailed bat received 7,031 votes, giving it a steady lead against the second-place finisher and last year’s winner, the kakapo, which received 4,072 votes.