It had to happen, and it did: After a passionate campaign by John Oliver, the noble Pūteketeke was crowned ‘Bird of the Century’ in the New Zealand Forests and Birds poll.
The Last week tonight the host launched the campaign – which he himself described as “alarmingly aggressive” – on his show in early November, devoting much of the episode to extolling the virtues of Pūteketeke and urging the public to vote for the bird.
“I don’t just want Pūteketeke to win,” Oliver said during a monologue. “I want him to win in the biggest landslide in the history of this magnificent race.”
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To gather as many votes as possible, Oliver started a website, paid advertising billboards in countries around the world, urging people to vote, and appeared on The show tonight dressed as Pūteketeke. “We thought it was a magnificent bird,” he explained when Fallon asked him why he chose it. “There are only a thousand in New Zealand.”
Apparently, Oliver’s strategy worked. Forest and Bird’s winner announcement on Wednesday said there had been a record 350,000+ verified votes in the contest, causing a breakdown in the vote verification system that led to a two-day delay in Pūteketeke’s crowning. Of those votes, Pūteketeke received over 290,000, while second place – the North Island brown kiwi, which Oliver previously described as “a rat carrying a toothpick” – received just under 13,000. New Zealand’s new prime minister Christopher Luxon congratulated Oliver on X, calling it a “huge result.”
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The host has yet to comment on the win, but Last week tonightThe votethisbird.com website has been updated to show a thank you message.
It’s clear that while Oliver may not be the “meaty oak” that Adam Driver is, he’s still an undeniable force to be reckoned with.
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