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(BNN) — In the past few weeks, feathers have been flying as the campaign for New Zealand’s Bird of the Year title ramps up.

Candidates, along with their human campaign managers, have been posting memes, rallying social media supporters, and reaching out to well-known New Zealanders for endorsements.

Perhaps one of the more coveted spokes-humans in this competition is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. But in recent days, a flock of candidates have received rejection letters from staff in the PM’s office, leaving many questioning who she will be supporting.

One high-level campaign manager, who asked not to be named, said they received an email stating that “unfortunately the Prime Minister will be supporting a different bird this year”.

Screenshot of an email from Jacinda Ardern's staff reading "kia ora, thank you for your email to the prime minister. Unfortunately the prime minister will be supporting a different bird this year."

Ardern is a known supporter of the black petrel, a jet-black seabird found on Great Barrier Island and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland.

Dubbing it the “bogan of the bird world”, Ardern saw her first black petrel while fishing in the Hauraki Gulf and “almost dropped her fishing rod with excitement”. In fact, she loves this bird so much she even slogged it up a massive hill on Great Barrier Island to help the Department of Conservation with its tagging programme.

Photo of Jacinda Ardern holding her knuckles that read "BLCK PTRL" up to camera and smiling.

When asked by 1News in 2018, Ardern revealed she would continue to support the black petrel.

“I was the ambassador for the black petrel some years ago. I didn’t manage to get Bird of the Year so I have been rooting for it ever since. It’s the bogan of the birds” said Ardern.

This begs the question — will Ardern go with her old faithful black petrel, or switch to a new bird. Perhaps one with a dash of red or a re-election campaign to win?

In 2018, when Kererū was crowned Bird of the Year, Ardern broke a month-long Twitter drought to send a congratulatory message to the chonky ruler.

Tweet by Jacinda Ardern reading "I salute you, kererū".

But a spokes-human from Team Kererū said they also received a rejection letter.

“We have reached out to every MP in Parliament and while we have some exciting endorsements coming up for our campaign, the Prime Minister’s office has told us that she favours a different bird for this year’s election.” said a spokes-human for the Kererū campaign.

Meanwhile, a conflicting story has emerged from Team Kākāpō. One campaign manager said they also received a rejection letter, while another shared a photo of Ardern holding a piece of refill paper that simply reads “vote kākāpō”. Some have questioned whether this image is fake.

Jacinda Ardern holding up a piece of paper with "vote kākāpō" written. It is clearly doctored.
This photo has been shared by a campaign manager in Team Kākāpō. BNN’s digital forensics team is currently confirming its authenticity.

BNN has reached out to the Prime Minister’s office for comment.

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