The ultimate feather in the cap awaits for one of 14 cutie queens (and kings) lining up to be this year's National Aquarium of NZ penguin of the year.
The annual contest run out of the Napier aquarium's Penguin Cove has taken off internationally since its inception in 2018.
Last year, a one-eyed kororā named Captain, who is the father of fellow contestant Dave, took out the competition. However, this year's newcomer and yearling Marina is set to ruffle a few feathers with a fierce side-profile shot.
Betty, Burny, Dave, Dora, Draco, Flip, Martin, Mr Mac, Pepper, Timmy, Tux and the perennial bridesmaid Mo (who has made it to three finals, but never won the title) make up this year's little penguin/kororā candidates.
Voting opened on the National Aquarium's website on Wednesday morning and more than 70 votes were cast in the first 15 minutes.
"Our recent lockdown saw an increased interest in our penguins' activities through our online channels. Their fan base is bigger than ever," said Joe Woolcott, general curator at the National Aquarium.
For voters keen to get an insight into the personality of their preferred penguin, Woolcott encourages the public to book a little penguin close encounter, Covid-19 permitting, or to book a live virtual penguin encounter through their website.
"Voters will be able to get up close and personal with their favourite candidates. It's a great way to help decide who to vote for," Woolcott said.
The little penguin (kororā) is famously the world's smallest penguin species and is native to Aotearoa and South Australia.
The 14 kororā rehomed at the aquarium have not had an easy start to life, abandoned as chicks or injured by external threats such as dogs or fishing equipment.
Once recovered and deemed ready, kororā are released back into their native environment. Others not strong enough to return have found more permanent lodgings at the aquarium's Penguin Cove.
The Penguin of the Year competition provides a national and international voting public with an opportunity to celebrate the undeniable cuteness of the kororā and the adversity that these birds have overcome.
Voting will close to the public on Tuesday, September 21, with finalists announced on September 23 and the Penguin of the Year revealed on September 30.