Hundreds of fraudulent votes made overnight have scandalised the annual Bird of the Year awards.
Forest & Bird was in a flap this morning, saying someone used fake email addresses to vote more than 200 times for the kokako.
The dodgy votes briefly sent the dark bluish-grey wattlebird soaring to first place, Bird of the Year coordinator Kimberley Collins said.
"The fake votes started coming in late last night but were quickly identified by kokako campaign managers Lucy Knight and Oscar Thomas who were surprised to see votes for the bird go up dramatically in the course of an hour," Forest & Bird said in a statement today.
Forest & Bird said it identified the fraud as coming from "a pair of passionate young voters who managed to subvert their parent's business account" to vote for the kokako.
"I got a phone call from their father, who was very apologetic. You have to admire their dedication and passion to see their favourite bird win. It's great to see young people get excited about conservation," said Collins.
"...We're surprised that somebody would rig such a light-hearted contest and taint the name of such a beautiful bird" said 15-year-old Oscar, campaign manager for the kokako.
Forest & Bird said the contest was now in its eleventh year, and aimed to raise awareness of New Zealand's unique native birds and the threats they face.
Voting closes this Sunday at 5pm.
This afternoon, the Bar Tailed Godwit, described as a "lunatic long-distance flier" was leading the flock of 52 contenders with 1555 votes.
Last year, the Fairy Tern or Tara Iti won.
Forest & Bird had a "one person, one vote" rule and voters can make their pick at www.birdoftheyear.org.nz.