It's almost time for Forest and Bird's annual Bird of the Year competition and native bird enthusiasts are gearing up, sharing memes and bird jokes on social media, and campaigning for their favourite bird to win.
Voting opens on November 2 and runs until November 15. Voters can choose their top five favourite birds, with rankings determining the winner.
Bird of the Year aims to raise awareness about the plight of our native bird species, 75 per cent of which are threatened or at risk of extinction. The figure for seabirds is 90 per cent.
The tieke or saddleback's campaign manager is Margie Beautrais, educator at Whanganui Regional Museum.
Margie regularly teaches at Bushy Park Sanctuary where the tieke is probably the noisiest resident.
Early European settlers found the dawn chorus in Aotearoa insufferably noisy, and once you have heard the tieke you get the impression that they must have been one of the main culprits.
Sadly, the two species of tieke are not as widely distributed as they once were. Their numbers have suffered as a result of habitat destruction and the introduction of mammalian predators such as rats, feral cats and mustelids.
The Bushy Park population is one of only five mainland populations of North Island tieke. There are also populations on offshore islands, with total numbers around 7000. All living birds descend from a single remaining natural population on Hen Island. The South Island tieke is rarer, with only around 700 surviving birds.
The tieke is part of the New Zealand wattlebird family, Calleidae, along with kokako and the extinct huia. It can be recognised by its black plumage, red wattle and russet-coloured 'saddle' across its back.
The tieke makes an appearance in the story of Maui snaring the sun, the brown colour said to have been caused by Maui grabbing the bird with his hot hand in annoyance that it would not bring him water.
Other traditions to do with the tieke include its status as a kaitiaki or guardian. It is also associated with omens such as rain, and good or bad fortune. The tieke gives its name to several important places in the Whanganui region, including Tieke on the Whanganui River, Kaitieke and Paratieke.
Tieke males make good partners. They bring their female mates gifts of food year-round to maintain the relationship, not just during the breeding season. Tieke live for up to 20 years. They nest in tree cavities and rock crevices and lay 2-4 eggs. They are opportunistic feeders, eating insects, fruit and nectar.
The population at Zealandia in Wellington is now spreading beyond the predator-proof fence, with instances of tieke nesting in the gardens of Wellington residents and in the forest outside the sanctuary.
Tieke has not won Bird of the Year previously. Its fellow wattlebird kokako was the winner in 2016. Last year's winner was the hoiho/ yellow-eyed penguin. Support a very special local bird by making sure you vote and putting tieke in your top five – preferably number one!