The magpie received 19,926 votes, followed by the Australian white ibis with 19,083 votes and the laughing kookaburra with 10,953 votes. They were the only three species to win more than 10,000 votes, to the chagrin of fairywren supporters who feel the chubby little blue bird was robbed. The fairywren vote was split between the east and west coasts, with the east coast superb fairywren getting 6,366 votes and fifth place and Western Australia’s splendid fairywren coming 10th with 4,129 votes.
The superb fairywren won BirdLife Australia’s bird of the year poll in 2013.
It is the first year the BirdLife poll has been run in conjunction with Guardian Australia. Almost 150,000 votes were received before the polls closed on Saturday. The result was the subject of some criticism, called either a boring choice or an unworthy one given the magpie’s propensity to swoop anyone who crosses their territory in spring.
BirdLife’s Sean Dooley, speaking on ABC News Breakfast, said despite their violent reputation magpies had cleverly befriended a number of humans, which may have swayed the vote.
“Magpies are easily tameable and people have a great connection with them,” Dooley said. “They love to feed them. Clearly there are a lot of people out there who have a special relationship with a magpie … You’re never lonely if you have a magpie.”
The ibis, Dooley said, was Australia’s answer to Brexit or “Ibis McIbisface”, a bird that had an early surge of popularity thanks to the ironic support of those disillusioned with the voting process. But he said it genuinely deserves our support.
“People don’t like them because they come into the cities, like Sydney or Brisbane, and steal your lunch out of your hands or go into the bins,” he said.
“But they only do that because their natural wetlands in the Murray-Darling have been drained and altered so it is not suitable for them. The prime minister talks about being agile and adaptable. The ibis embodies that Australian spirit.”
Another popular bird type to suffer from a split vote was the parrot family, which first appeared in the results with the rainbow lorikeet in sixth position, with 6,041 votes.
The sulphur-crested cockatoo was 11th with 4,051 votes and the gang-gang cockatoo, which received the vote of a number of politicians by virtue of being native to Canberra, was 15th with 2,871 votes.
Adding up the votes for various parrot species, we have more than 30,000 votes, including 76 write-in votes for the newly rediscovered night parrot. As one submitter wrote: “For the night parrot, for surviving.”
Bird lovers wrote in to nominate a number of species that were left off the original 51-bird summary list, the most popular of which were: the yellow-tailed black cockatoo with 304 votes; the black-throated finch with 291 votes; and Abbott’s booby, a seabird native to Christmas Island, which received 243 votes.
Also submitted for the scrutineers’ consideration was Emu bitter (a beer), Pluka duck (a bad 90s puppet), “ducks” (a valid bird family but a pretty broad vote).
Votes for “bin chicken” and “tip chook” were included in the ibis vote.