When asked to support a bird for The Bird of the Year Competition it was an easy choice – the Sooty Shearwater or Titi won hands down.
The Kiwi may be our national icon, but all they do is eat roots and leaves. Is that really representative of our country’s culture? We don’t think so. We think the sooty shearwater is. Why?
They are globetrotters – titi encapsulate the spirit of many young New Zealanders who want to get out and explore the world. Every winter the sooty shearwater does an OE, starting with a trip to South America then up to the northern hemisphere to feed off the coast of Alaska and Japan. Pretty impressive for a little muttonbird (young sooty shearwater) that managed to escape being caught and eaten for dinner.
They are the athletes of the bird kingdom – they fly a 65,000 km round trip every year! Compare that to the kereru which is so fat it has to climb a tree to take off, whereas the kakapo is just a plain old couch potato.
It’s cheeky – what 12 year old boy doesn’t like a bird called a Titi?
They have a work ethic – the muttonbird (the young of the sooty shearwater) are a delicacy in Invercargill supermarkets. This plucky bird has been able to withstand human harvesting, something no other native bird has achieved.
Finally the sooty shearwater remind us of the importance of our southern islands and the multiple challenges facing conservation: the number of burrows in the largest colony (on the Snares islands) declined by 37% between 1969-2000. The possible reasons include climate change, getting tangled in fishing nets and pests threatening their young (including humans).