By Dashiel Wallace.
Bird of the Year is a competition held by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand to raise awareness about the fascinating native species of Aotearoa. In this annual event you get to choose your favourite five birds and rank them in your preferred order. Then, they eliminate birds with the fewest votes and add the votes according to your other rankings, until only one bird remains, who is crowned Te Manu Rongonui o te Rautau… Bird of the Century!
For 2023 it is not just bird of the year, but as Forest and Bird was founded in 1923 it is Bird of the Century. Lots of popular candidates are campaigning strongly, such as the Kiwi, Tui, Kea, and Ruru.
To spread the word about my favourite bird, I signed up to be the campaign manager for the Parera, or Grey Duck.
This beautiful duck looks similar to a female mallard, having gray feathers with flecks of gold at the tips. Their heads are mostly white, with two black stripes going down them. The Males have amazingly coloured bright teal secondary feathers on their wings.
Unfortunately, these incredible ducks are being driven to extinction not so much by rats and stoats, but mostly by their larger counterpart, the introduced duck species, the Mallard. Male Mallards are larger, stronger and more aggressive than the male Parera, so there are almost no purebred Parera left, as the Mallards keep beating the males to the female Greys.
We need your help: The rare, purebred Parera live far away from civilisation, in still waters, in pairs. They tend to stay away from Mallards, but you can still see flocks of half Parera, half Mallard at your local pond. In 1970, the Parera Population was about 1.5 million, and spread around everywhere in New Zealand, but now the purebred population is around just 500,000, and they live only in the deepest parts of the bush.
So, join me and Whenuakite School on this mission to bring the title of Bird of the Century to the humble, elusive and beautiful Parera.
You can vote from Monday, 30 October to Sunday, 12 November at birdoftheyear.org.nz.
Caption: Dashiell Wallace, regular contributor to The Informer in his capacity as a cartoonist, is seen here with his beloved Parera ducks.