The best bird is a bat now, baby, and you better get used to it. New Zealand’s annual “Bird of the Year” competition, which allows residents to rank their favorite birds from the country’s over-200 native species, has found its winner in the pekapeka-tou-roa, or long-tailed bat, despite the fact that the small mammal is, in fact, not a bird. And we do love the bat for his unlikely triumph, and we take inspiration from his fearless pursuit of all that he desires.
The 2021 competition raked in a total of 58,000 votes, the most ever received in its 16-year-long history, according to the Independent. Among those votes, 7,000 ranked the bat as their favorite bird. The organizers decided to include the bat in the competition to raise awareness of its status as a critically endangered native species, which is due largely to deforestation and invasive predators. “They face a lot of the same threats that our native birds do,” said Lissy Fehnker-Heather, member of the environmental group Forest and Bird, which organizes the competition. “So this year, we thought we’ll try and get more people aware of that.”
Many have noted the bat has also had a bad bout of PR lately, with its potential link the the initial COVID-19 outbreak. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a new trailer for the upcoming Marvel film Morbius was released on November 2, and it features Jared Leto being attacked by, yes, bats. Then he becomes a vampire. Oh, our poor friend the bat. We love him, and we’re glad he is able to rise above his bad press.
Forest and Bird spokesperson Laura Keown said in a statement: “A vote for bats is also a vote for predator control, habitat restoration, and climate action to protect our bats and their feathered neighbours.”
The pekapeka-tou-roa is reportedly the size of a bumblebee when it is born, and remains, according to the Independent, “as tiny as a thumb” when fully grown. My goodness we love him so much; more with every passing moment.
Of course, bird enthusiasts are upset that “Bird of the Year 2021” went to a non-bird, but I’m sure those who think of themselves as “bird enthusiasts” are always going to be upset about something, and are likely at least in part grateful for the opportunity to be angry. For you, sweet bat, we have a love poem as a celebratory gift. We hope you enjoy it.
Oh Mr. Bat, our bird of the year
As sweet as you are small
Oh Mr. Bat, have ye no fear
And do answer my call
I love you, my bat; I’d just like to talk
About my life and yours
Or if you’d like, let’s go for a walk
Or have a meal outdoors
Please notice me, bat
I love you so much
You are my only friend
Bat, please, I am crying
I just need to talk
Don’t let this relationship end
My bird of the year
My bat, my bat
Where are you, my bat, my bat?
Congrats on your win
And for all that has been
My bat, my bat, my bat
Kind of turned out to be an interesting poem, I think you’d agree.