In a country that is a seabird superpower, Northland's highly endangered fairy tern has won the New Zealand Seabird of the Year poll.

The annual Bird of the Year quest is run by the independent conservation charity Forest & Bird, and this year was dedicated to seabirds.

Co-campaign manager for the fairy tern, Northland conservationist and author Wade Doak, said the fairy tern's win is great news for the species and the people who work hard to protect it.

"Sadly, the dwindling numbers of fairy tern are disproportionate to their popularity, with only between 8-10 breeding pairs of the birds left," Mr Doak said.

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"However, the upside is that there are plenty of people who are prepared to go to great lengths to save the fairy tern. The courage and devotion of the public to saving these birds is incredible."

Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate (Seabirds) Karen Baird said the light-hearted poll makes people aware that New Zealand has more native seabirds than any other country in the world.

"New Zealand is a seabird superpower. More than a third of the world's seabird species spend at least part of their lives here. Thirty-six of those only breed here," Ms Baird said.

"But nearly half the 86 seabirds in total that breed in New Zealand are threatened with extinction."

The fairy tern and the Fiji petrel traded the lead in the poll several times but a late surge saw the little seabird that lives only in Northland come out on top, with 1882 votes. The Fiji petrel had 1801 votes.