A surprise winner in 2007, this little bird has a song that belies its size. Keeping themselves busy by dancing in the canopy looking for small invertebrates for themselves and often for their usual guests, shining cuckoo chicks who get left in warbler nests.
The beautiful Grey Warbler has suffered some ugly slanders in the past. This, for example, from Stephen Braunias in 2008.
"Graeme Hill, a Radio Live announcer, and co-host of children’s TV show Sports Cafe, stopped at nothing to spread base propaganda on behalf of the grey warbler. He used his radio programmes to bang on ad nauseum about the bird’s appeals. He rented a blog on the widely-read Public Address site to further unduly influence the public to cast their vote in favour of his cherished warbling ninny.
He was manipulative, bullying, suave. Was he sincere? I’ll give Hill the benefit of doubt, but the grey warbler was a peculiar barrow to push. The bird is a beige, trembling wallflower, a bore and a nobody, seldom seen, of no particular charm when it is seen, and so dim that it incubates an egg deposited by the shining cuckoo - but still fails to notice anything is amiss when the cuckoo, once hatched, ruthlessly sets about annihilating warbler chicks.
And yet the public were gulled by Hill’s shrill filibustering. The grey warbler won the election.
Since our hard-earned victory in 2007 we Warblerites have been happy to just gloat and rest on our laurels. This year though, it’s different. Being able to vote for a top 5 means the Grey Warbler should be in everybody’s list. Here’s why.
It is almost always the last pure NZ songbird on the block… where it alone provides the clarion call to action on behalf of all the others.
It is in fact 2 birds. It is the parent of most Shining Cookoos who bludge off the goodwill of the Warbler Community from egg right through to adolescence just for them to drop off their own delinquent children to other GREY WARBLERS!!
Its song is the most often heard purely New Zealand bird song (the Waxeye community immigrated in the 1850s), yet it is so tiny and secretive that it is rarely seen until you get your eye in.
Each Grey Warbler has a different song but they all magically somehow sound distinctly warblery. It's not going to do anything for itself (unlike that little hussy the Fantail) to gain favour with Homo sapiens, other than sing. That's class.
The sheer effort put into its song. This little bird truly shakes from tailfeather to beak when in song.
It is not drab. It exhibits flashes of a Fantail-like tail when hunting its only food, insects, hovering just like a hummingbird... yet doesn't make a grand affair of the matter. Class again.
It is New Zealand's LIGHTEST bird along with the Rifleman. Edith Piaf, eat your heart out.
Listen to its plaintive call and if you've been outside New Zealand for any length of time...prepare to weep.
More poetry has been written about the Grey Warbler than ANY other NZ bird.
Vote for whom you like, but please consider our sub-conscious sound-symbol of New Zealand, the Grey Warbler carefully, before you do.