He walked a little around the little penguin
New Zealanders have chosen the bird of the year 2022. The winner of the competition was the rocky New Zealand wren, a small bird that lives in the mountains of the South Island and may hibernate during the winter. While the wren is less well-known and less popular than the kiwi or the kakapo, The Guardian notes that it too needs protection from invasive predators and anthropogenic climate change.
Every autumn New Zealand chooses the bird of the year. The online vote, organized by the conservation organization Forest & Bird, involves all species of birds that nest or winter in this country. And anyone can vote for their favorite view, even if he himself does not live in New Zealand. The main goal of the competition is to draw public attention to the conservation of New Zealand birds, many of which are on the verge of extinction due to the fault of humans and invasive mammals brought to the archipelago.
In different years, the flightless kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), the magnificent penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) and the kiwi (Apteryx) became the birds of the year (all five species act as a single candidate). And last year, unexpectedly for everyone, the bat, the New Zealand outgrowth (Chalinolobus tuberculatus), became the bird of the year. She was included in the vote due to the fact that bats living in New Zealand face the same threats as birds.
This year, Forest & Bird decided to pay special attention to little-known and unpopular species of birds that do not enjoy the same love as, for example, kiwi, but also deserve protection. In order for such species to have a chance to win, the organizers even excluded from the list of candidates the kakapo, which became the bird of the year twice, in 2008 and 2020. In addition, in an attempt to further support the unpopular birds, their profiles on the voting website were marked “Underbird” (“Outsider Bird”).
Last Monday, the organizers summed up the voting results. The New Zealand rock wren (Xenicus gilviventris) was declared the winner, slightly outperforming the little penguin (Eudyptula minor). Contrary to its name, this small bird, which lives in the mountains of the South Island and possibly hibernates for the winter, has nothing to do with true wrens (Troglodytidae) from Eurasia, North Africa and America, but belongs to the family of New Zealand wrens endemic to New Zealand (Acanthisitidae).
A few centuries ago, this group of primitive passeriformes included at least seven different species, but five of them became extinct due to the fault of man and the predators and rodents he introduced. For example, the New Zealand bush wren (Xenicus longipes) disappeared 50 years ago, and the Stephen New Zealand wren (Traversia lyalli), which survived only on Stevens Island in the strait between the North and South Islands by the arrival of Europeans, died out at the end of the 19th century (according to popular myth, the species completely exterminated the only cat that belonged to the lighthouse keeper, but in reality many stray cats bred on the island – and they ate the wrens in just a few years).
The rocky New Zealand wren is also endangered. For centuries, this bird managed to survive, because in the Southern Alps, where it lives, it is too cold for mammals introduced by man. However, due to anthropogenic climate change, the New Zealand mountains are getting warmer. As a result, predators and rodents rise higher and higher up the slopes, invading the wrens’ habitats and killing adults and destroying their nests. Saving New Zealand’s rocky wrens requires concerted efforts to combat alien species and climate change, ornithologists say.
Earlier we talked about how ornithologists wrote a new species of birds that lives on the Diego Ramirez Islands south of South America. It was named subantarctic rayadito (Aphrastura subantarctica). Previously, it was believed that the local population belongs to the spiny-tailed rayadito (A. spinicauda), widespread in Chile and Argentina. However, the analysis showed that individuals from the Diego Ramirez Islands are larger and behave differently: instead of climbing trees and building nests in hollows, they hide from the wind in tall grass and hatch chicks in abandoned seabird burrows.