A team called the Big Birds because its all-female members average six foot (183cm) in height has won the supreme title in this year's Russell Birdman Festival.

Up to 3000 people turned out for Saturday's Birdman jump, the highlight of a four-day festival in which teams compete to leap the greatest distance or in the most most entertaining manner from the end of Russell wharf.

This year's supreme award went to Big Birds from Kerikeri's Illumination Workshop. From left, Leanne Wilson, Jo Lumkong, Karren Penny and Ruby Watson.
This year's supreme award went to Big Birds from Kerikeri's Illumination Workshop. From left, Leanne Wilson, Jo Lumkong, Karren Penny and Ruby Watson.

The Bird Birds, from Kerikeri's Illumination Workshop, were a band of "powerful, moa-eating, muscular-buttocked women" who ruled Aotearoa until they were all but wiped out by an outbreak of gluten intolerance.

Their Amazon-style costumes were made by workshop founder Kylie Penn and had their own theme song written by Kerikeri's Jo Slack.


Read more: High fliers and high jinx at Russell Birdman Festival

They took home $1000 in prize money, as did Russell's Taine Regeling, whose Batman costume helped him fly the greatest distance.

Also competing was Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai with an entry called Crazy Old Bird. Her costume was made by The Paper Mill, with some of the charity's disabled clients taking part in the performance, and had placed third in the 2015 Bernina Fashion Awards.

Ms Mai and the Paper Mill won the feathers and fibre category for their efforts.

Other standouts among the 13 teams were a kakariki-themed entry by Paihia couple Ryan and Laura Stevenson and an elaborate performance by the crew of the Duke Tavern which involved a team member jumping, or possibly falling, from the top of a ladder.

Other attractions included spaghetti-eating races, a waka ama regatta, a Corflute boat-building challenge, a wok cook-off, and the infamous Friday evening drag race in which suspiciously hairy ladies run an obstacle course around town, slowed down by high heels and handbags. A new addition this year was the Fred Dagg Dash for ladies (gumboots, singlet and hat compulsory).

This year's chief organiser, Vivienne Campbell, said the crowd of up to 3000 was slightly down on other years, possibly due to the cold and rain of preceding days. The weather on Saturday, however, was sunny and calm, ideal for the Birdman jump.

She praised the "awesome" standard of entries and was pleased to see new groups taking part such as Whangarei's Paper Mill and Hospice Mid-Northland. New sponsors had boosted the prize pool to $4000, which helped keep people interested.

"It's a neat family day out and there's loads of free stuff for kids to do. It's great for Russell to host everybody and show them our lovely little town," she said.

The festival was started 11 years ago by Russell residents who wanted to attract visitors and have fun in mid-winter. See Wednesday's Bay News Bites for more coverage.

And the winners are...
Supreme Birdman: Big Birds (Illumination Workshop's Kylie Penn with Leanne Wilson, Jo Lumkong, Karren Penny and Ruby Watson, from Kerikeri/Kaikohe).
Ultimate Flying Challenge: Taine Regeling (Russell).
Crowd favourite: Kakariki (Ryan and Laura Stevenson, Paihia).
Best team: Duke Tavern Flying Circus (Jake Howell and staff of Duke of Marlborough Tavern, Russell).
Cleverest craft: Kororareka Melting Pot (Pania Sigley and Maryanne Hooson, Russell). Feathers and fibre: Sheryl Mai (Paper Mill, Whangarei).

Spaghetti-eating race (adult): Nobl Pineva (Auckland).
Corflute boat challenge (adult): Tony Wallace (Russell/Levin).