Covid-19 has delayed Ollie the cockatiel’s epic hike down the length of New Zealand but while the chips are down, he’s been boosting his public profile by downing chips.
The plucky 20-month-old Cambridge bird, who featured in Cambridge News on August 5, had a brutal start to life when his father attacked him in the nest, leaving him close to death.
However, he made a miraculous recovery thanks to Robyn Chappell from Bird Rescue Cambridge. His body was left permanently twisted out of shape and his leg still faces the wrong way, but he can hop around on his good leg, fly short distances and talk.
Robyn had been planning to begin a 3000km walk with Ollie from Cape Reinga to Bluff along Te Araroa walking trail in September, but Covid lockdowns clipped their wings.
Since then, Robyn’s been itching for Auckland to move to Alert Level 2 so the pair can begin their six-month mission to raise money for the Te Araroa Trust.
“With the latest lockdowns in Hamilton we’re weighing up our options in regard to an alternative start point,” she said.
In the meantime, Ollie has accrued more than 500 followers on his Facebook page and has become a pin up boy for Kihi’s kiwifruit chips.
“Kihi’s Pet Chips saw Ollie’s Facebook page and sent a couple of bags to him to try,” Robyn said.
“They are a new business, they love animals, their kids are involved, and they have cockatiels themselves. They decided to advertise on the New Zealand business page Chooice, which must have been running a bit of a competition for some free advertising on a billboard. They submitted a photo I took of Ollie enjoying the kiwifruit chips and a gorgeous letter from their kids, and Ollie’s smiling face is now beaming out from a billboard in Parnell, Auckland.”
While making his modelling debut Ollie has “had a flapping good time keeping his bulging fan base of followers and supporters entertained by his fundraising antics”.
“He’ll do almost anything for a donation to his Givealittle page,” Robyn said. “This has included the sharing of a message and photo from Her Royal Highnest of Duckingham Palace, who offered her royal support of his upcoming Te Araroa journey.”
A hoot for bird lovers (and perhaps anyone with a sense of humour), Ollie’s Facebook page has been featuring regular updates on Ollie and Robyn’s trip preparations, which haven’t always gone smoothly.
“Tent pitching practice has resulted in a definite need for lots more tent pitching practice,” Robyn said.
“At one point I decided I’d rather sleep under a tree with a $5 rain poncho draped over my head. And I spent four hours packing and repacking our backpack the other day, trying to get our supplies down to a manageable weight.”
While the Covid delay had been frustrating for Robyn, she said it had been water off a duck’s back to Ollie.
Despite being stuck at home, the avian icon has already raised $1400 for the Te Araroa Trust towards his $10,000 target.