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Worthy winner . . . The korora (little blue penguin) is vying for Bird of the Year. PHOTO: OAMARU BLUE PENGUIN COLONY

If ever a bird deserved to be Bird of the Year, it is the little blue penguin – the korora.

This unsung hero can waddle rings around the flashy kea and the stealth-bombing kereru, which have been popular contenders in the 13th annual contest run by Forest and Bird.

It’s a tough life being a penguin. While the kea just fronts up to any tourist and scrounges or filches whatever it wants, the poor korora has to go to sea at dawn, swim for miles all day, gorge itself on far more fish than it could ever digest, swim back to shore at dusk, re-oil its feathers, haul itself up rocky cliffs on its stumpy little legs after dark, throw up the fish to feed its young, then revive itself by sleeping only three minutes at a time.

Yet these beautiful birds perform daily for the public, going about their habits in full view for our amusement, education and economic gain.

The korora has the backing of an enterprising local business that knows a thing or two about birds: Topflite. The birdseed company based at Weston is appalled that the korora has never won the title.

“Topflite, as campaign manager, is planning an energetic election campaign to ensure the penguin has a fighting chance this year,” a company spokesperson said.

“The korora is distributed along the coastlines of New Zealand, with large numbers in Otago and Canterbury. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is one of the largest in New Zealand.

“Numbers of blue penguins are in decline and their conservation status is ‘at risk’.

“Recent reports in the media have highlighted how human activity, dogs and other pests are impacting on survival rates. Winning Bird of the Year would attract some much-needed attention for the korora.

“The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony has pledged to support the campaign.”

Topflite’s new packaging has been designed by illustrator ellaquaint. Her support for the korora extends to providing a special-edition prize that will be revealed during the campaign.

Vote for the korora at birdoftheyear.org.nz, share photos and stories about it using #BirdOfTheYear #votelittleblue, follow the campaign at www.facebook.com/votelittleblue, make posters or videos to support it, and provide incentives to encourage others to vote.