John Oliver stands in front of a giant bird puppet in 'Last Week Tonight.'

John Oliver’s Bird Election Meddling Actually Worked

We did it!

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver brought New Zealand’s “Bird of the Year” contest to the world stage. Now that the official results have come in, we can see John Oliver’s massive election campaign for “Bird of the Century” worked just like he planned.

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John Oliver loves an over-the-top stunt and so do his fans. A few weeks ago, Oliver alerted the world to New Zealand’s annual “Bird of the Year” contest orchestrated by Forest and Bird. This year, the honor would be extra special as the title was changed to “Bird of the Century.” Oliver backed the Pūteketeke, an endangered bird that has a penchant for vomiting and awkward mating rituals. Not holding back on spending HBO Max’s money, Oliver launched a full-scale global campaign to get Pūteketekes the win they deserved. This meant billboards all over the world and a special website to send voters right to the Pūteketeke’s page at Forest and Bird.

After voting closed, everyone waited to see who the winning bird would be. However, the inundation of votes stalled the winning announcement. Forest and Bird says, “A record 350,000+ verified votes from 195 countries make 2023 the biggest year ever for the annual Bird of the Year competition, which has run since 2005. The previous record was 56,733 verified votes in 2021.”

Pūteketeke is king

When the votes were finally tallied, the Pūteketeke was crowned the clear winner. By a lot. Landing in first place, the Pūteketeke had 290,374 votes. The second-place bird, the North Island brown kiwi, received only 12,904 votes.

Every year, a company called Metal bird teams up with Forest and Bird to create a keepsake of the winning bird, a metal silhouette statue available for purchase to support the organization’s efforts. This year’s statue of the Pūteketeke comes with a little removable John Oliver figure riding on its back. “This Metalbird (& friend) will immortalize the year that America crashed a kiwi tradition, and raised a huge amount of money and support for New Zealand’s native birds in the process! It just goes to show, anything can happen in politics,” reads the MetalBird website.

You can order the metal statue of a Pūteketeke either by itself or with a little John Oliver riding it for $74.99. For every order, 30% of the proceeds go to Forest and Bird to fund conservation efforts in New Zealand.

Did the world have any right to bombard New Zealand with our thoughts on their bird contest? No, not really. But New Zealand can take a good joke. Plus, it brought awareness to the endangered wildlife of the region. That’s elections for you. As Oliver joked on his show, “This is what democracy is all about: America interfering in foreign elections.”

(featured image: Max)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.