The huia (Heteralocha acutirostris) has long had iconic significance in New Zealand because of its beauty. The white-tipped tail feathers were a revered taonga (treasure) for Māori at the time of European arrival. Because the female huia had a downward pointing beak that was much larger than that of the male, pairs of huia were often killed and preserved in glass cases, as in this example.
Huia were easy to catch. There was a rapid decline in their numbers in the late 19th century, probably because of a combination of bush clearance, predation and hunting. Legislation to stop the birds being hunted was passed in 1892, but it was too late to avoid their extinction, which happened in the early 20th century.
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Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
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