John Oliver’s ‘alarmingly aggressive’ campaign worked. Pūteketeke is the ‘Bird of the Century’.

John Oliver’s ‘alarmingly aggressive’ campaign worked. Pūteketeke is the ‘Bird of the Century’.

It had to happen, and happen is exactly what it did: After a passionate campaign from John Oliver, the noble Pūteketeke has been crowned “Bird of the Century” in New Zealand’s Forest and Bird poll.

The Last Week Tonight host launched the campaign — which he himself described as “alarmingly aggressive” — during his show in early November, dedicating a large chunk of the episode to extolling the virtues of the Pūteketeke and urging the public to vote for the bird.

“I don’t just want the Pūteketeke to win,” said Oliver during a monologue. “I want it to win in the biggest landslide in the history of this magnificent competition.”

In order to garner as many votes as possible, Oliver launched a website, paid for advertising billboards in countries across the world urging people to vote, and appeared on The Tonight Show dressed as a Pūteketeke. “We thought it was a magnificent bird,” he explained when Fallon asked him why he’d chosen it. “There’s only a thousand of them in New Zealand.”

Clearly, Oliver’s strategy worked. The Forest and Bird’s winner announcement on Wednesday said there had been a record-breaking 350,000+ verified votes in the contest, causing a crash in the voting verification system that led to a two-day delay in the Pūteketeke being crowned. Of these votes, the Pūteketeke received over 290,000, while the runner-up — the North Island brown kiwi, which Oliver previously described as “a rat carrying a toothpick” – received just under 13,000. New Zealand’s incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon congratulated Oliver on X, calling it a “huge result”.

The host hasn’t commented on the victory yet, but Last Week Tonight‘s website has been updated to display a thank you message.


Clearly, while Oliver may not be the “meaty oak tree” that Adam Driver is, he’s still an undeniable force to be reckoned with.

Sam Haysom

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