Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, bird of the year 2022 is a bat.
The pekapeka long-tailed bat is - somewhat implausibly - New Zealand's bird of the year. The cheeky inclusion in the public vote run by Forest and Bird won over the closest runner up, the Kakapo, by thousands of votes.
The inclusion of the misunderstood mammal has ruffled some feathers. However, DoC's Dr Kerry Borkin thinks it is a win for both the pekapeka and conservation in general.
"It was a bit of left-of-field entry into the competition but anything that showcases our amazing native fauna and conservation is pretty fantastic," she says.
It's been a tough few years for bats worldwide. With the flying mammals being blamed for carrying deadly diseases and even blamed as a host species for the Coronavirus, bats have taken a bashing.
Following Halloween, for some people the winged, 'creatures of the night' are the stuff of nightmares.
But the DoC science advisor says the bats aren't scary, so much as misunderstood.
"People think they're mysterious and we're still learning a lot," said Borkin.
As flying mammals, the pekapeka have more in common with porpoise than Aotearoa's other winged creatures. However, they still need help.
With the animals threatened with extinction, few New Zealanders have ever seen a bat.
"They're tiny," says Borkin. "They've got beautiful soft brown fur. Their body is about the size of your thumb. They weigh only as much as a $2 coin, only 10g."
"You can see them at dusk just at the change of light. They change direction really quickly," says Borkin. The distinctive jink and turn of the bats as they hunt flying insects is how best to tell them apart from dusk birds, like swallow.
That and the distinctive long bat-wing silhouette. Jagged and with a long triangular tail, their profile looks like a comic book Bat-Signal.
Despite being the country's only endemic land mammal, most Kiwis don't know they exist.
The bats are a vital part of the ecosystem of New Zealand's ancient forests, eating fly life and pests in the dusk.
In fact, pekapeka are rather charming. They have intricate social groupings and large, close-knit families.
"They live in these intergenerational extended whanau. Grandma, mum and pup might be in the same colony. So they've got a lot of cool qualities and deserve our protection as much as any of our native fauna."
Although vulnerable to predators such as cats and stoats and loss of mature trees, you can see them in our largest cities.
Some of the best places Borkin would recommend for spotting bats are in central North Island.
The pekapeka can be spotted at dusk in the Pureora forest and the Whanganui River Journey - but you can also see them in city centres, like Hamilton and Auckland.
Waikato Museum runs drop-in bat tours and the Waitakere Ranges and Auckland council run bat walks Hīkoi o ngā pekapeka.
In the South Island there are also small populations of the bat, though you'll have to look harder.
In August operators Franz Josef Wilderness Tours discovered a population in the Whataroa river valleys, during their work for the government's Jobs for Nature project.
"Most of our tours take us across Lake Mapourika on the edge of lake, which is on the edge of the Rowi kiwi sanctuary. It's also prime bat territory as well," says owner Dale Burrows.
During the downturn in tourism caused by Covid, the Wilderness Tours ran predator-control and a surveys that confirmed that there were long-tail bats in the West Coast rainforests.
While Burrows was not willing to say which bird (or bat) got his vote, he said the win was great thing for getting New Zealanders to visit some of the lesser known creatures in their backyard.