Bird’s stardom welcomed

The puteketeke at Ashburton Lakes. Photo Don Geddes
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Ashburton conservationist and photographer Don Geddes welcomed the international voting that saw the puteketeke/Australasian crested grebe crowned New Zealand’s Bird of the Century recently.

The South Island bird with an orange mullet is a regular on the Ashburton Lakes, and one Geddes likes to photograph.

‘‘It was cool to see the grebe win, and the publicity this has generated for the birds. The free publicity has been awesome, and it’s all been fun,’’ Geddes said.

The puteketeke shot to international stardom thanks to British comedian John Oliver encouraging his television audiences to vote for it in the Forest and Bird competition.

Subsequently, the competition generated $600,000 in donations for the conservation group, more than six times what the 2022 competition raised.

‘‘You are a deeply weird bird and I think at the end of the day that’s what people responded to,’’ Oliver said in a tribute to the puteketeke after it won, referring to its ‘‘Sid Vicious-esque hairstyle’’ and other attributes.

Now the hype of the competition is over, the birds aren’t to be forgotten. Locals can get involved in helping native birds generally by taking part in predator trappings, and making donations to Forest and Bird.

They can also help out for the 10 year national puteketeke survey planned for January 27, 2024. The count is being organised by Canterbury volunteers Rosalie Snoyink and Leslie Jensen.

Due to low numbers, puteketeke are classed as nationally vulnerable. But numbers appear to be increasing.

After reaching 200 in the 1980s the population increased to about 400 in 2004, and 700 in 2014.

It is expected bird numbers may exceed 1000 this survey.

Plans are under way to find observers to count about 100 lakes in the South Island, on the same day.

Geddes is co-ordinating people to count at the Ashburton Lakes.

The new data will be valuable in determining trends in survival and distribution of this elegant, and now internationally famous, diving water bird.

– The puteketeke survey is on January 27. For more information about participating, contact Don Geddes via

[email protected] or 0272247913.