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This year's top bird in New Zealand is a bat

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. We have the news of New Zealand's Bird of the Year. And the Bird of the Year is not a bird.

LAURA KEOWN: The winner of Bird of the Year was our pekapeka-tou-roa, or long-tailed bat.

INSKEEP: Laura Keown is a spokesperson with Forest & Bird, a conservation group that holds the Bird of the Year contest, and now they've added native bats to their list.

KEOWN: The idea was floated that it would be a really great opportunity to raise awareness about our bats, which are critically endangered species, and help people get to know them if they were included in Bird of the Year, so they sort of swooped in to the competition.

NOEL KING, HOST:

It's like when Americans became eligible for the Booker Prize. This year, with bats on the ballot, the birds were kind of an afterthought. The long-tailed bat is a silent insectivore, small, fast and very shy. Laura Keown says voters could not resist supporting it.

KEOWN: New Zealanders absolutely relished the opportunity to vote for their native bat because the bat won with about 3,000 votes more than its nearest competitor.

INSKEEP: Now, there's some history here. Last year's election was marred by voter fraud. A hacker cast more than 1,500 illegitimate votes for the little spotted kiwi.

KING: But legal votes favored the kakapo, which is a ground-dwelling parrot. This year, we are told, the contest was clean and fair.

KEOWN: There was no voter fraud detected. It's a very good sign for avian democracy. It's good that people were able to exercise their bird-ocratic (ph) rights without fear of, you know, election fixing.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILD NOTHING'S "REICHPOP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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