An online poll for Australian bird of the year has led to internet mayhem

In a post-Boaty McBoatface world, it seems we’d all know better than to open any question up to an online poll. But, bravely going against this conventional wisdom, BirdLife Australia and The Guardian launched one to determine the Australian bird of the year – and the expected internet chaos quickly followed.

Australian White Ibis, Sydney, Australia Image by Tim Graham/Getty Images

The Australian white ibis is off to a shocking lead, considering the bird is often referred to by locals as a “bin chicken.” For many, the ibis taking first place out of the 50 birds included is less a sign of its universal appeal than the internet’s love of making a mockery of online polls.

Bin chickens, at least in the cities, are known for aggressively eating garbage with their long beaks and generally wreaking trash-related havoc.

However, the competition description plays up the virtues of the bird, explaining that “despite all the negative press, there is still a lot of love for the much-maligned ‘bin chicken’. With the loss of much of their traditional wetland haunts inland, many ibises have adapted to city life, feasting on the abundance of our refuse.” It’s a fair point, as most of the hatred towards the bird stems from behaviours caused by the loss of their natural habitat. That in itself may be a compelling enough argument to give the poor ibis a vote, considering the goal of the competition is to educate the public about native species.

But the chaos hasn’t ended there. The poll is open until 9 December, and for some reason, they’ve included a write-in option, though the official page notes that “Birdy McBirdface” is off limits.

Things have descended to the point where there’s even been multiple instances of “suspicious voting activity” in favour of the powerful owl. After an investigation revealed automated voting, a number of votes have been removed.

However, if you’re ready not quite ready to get on #teambinchicken and support the ibis, Australia does have an astounding range of incredible birds: there are local favourites like the emu and the laughing kookaburra, the whimsically named splendid fairywren, and the hilarious-looking tawny frogmouth.

But, since this is the internet, be prepared to mark 2017 as the year of the bin chicken – and perhaps gain some sympathy for a misunderstood bird.

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