Amid a surge in votes, kereru was crowned New Zealand’s Bird of the Year, local reports said on Monday.
The plump, native wood pigeon cooed its way to top with 5,833 votes followed by kakapo with 3,772 votes and kaki (black stilt) with 2,995 votes.
Kereru’s campaigners highlighted the bird’s size, appetite and role in sustaining forests. It is the only native bird big enough to swallow and disperse the large fruit of karaka, miro, tawa and taraire.
Kereru population is stable but is becoming extinct in areas that do not have sustained predator control.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who voted for the black petrel, hailed kereru’s victory on Twitter.
The selection process was hit by a scandal when IP addresses in Australia sent through over 1,500 votes for the kaki.
Some 48,000 bird lovers participated in the voting this year compared with 41,000 last year.
The Bird of the Year competition organised by the conservation group Forest and Bird aims to raise awareness on native birds, their habitats, and the threats they face.
Previous winners of the competition include the fairy tern and mohua.