Feather of Extinct Bird Fetches Huge Price At Auction

huia bird image

Image via wikipedia

A very rare feather, the white-tipped tail feather of an extinct New Zealand bird called the huia, sold at auction last week for a whopping $5,880. The huia was last seen in 1907, which makes the tail feather understandably precious among collectors. Still, it was only estimated to be worth $550-700...that is until the bidding turned fierce. Ironically, it's this passionate purchase of their tail feathers that led the huia to their extinction in the first place. Earth Times reports:

Huia feathers were traditionally used for adornment by Maori chiefs, Hokimate Harwood, a researcher at New Zealand's National Museum Te Papa, told the paper. She said that when the Duke of York, who later became Britain's George V, visited New Zealand in 1902, a Rotorua chief gave him a feather, which he wore back home in his hat.

"All the women in England wanted one, and people were paying a lot of money," she said. "And that's what led to their extinction."

However, it seems there was more trouble than just their tail feathers that led to their extinction. Wikipedia also cites "overhunting to procure mounted specimens for European museums and widespread habitat destruction." When the Māori arrived in New Zealand around 800 years ago, huia numbers immediately started declining due to overhunting and habitat destruction. However, the bird held a sacred place in Māori culture, which helped spare it from total extinction. At least, until the Europeans arrived in the 1800s.

The last confirmed sighting of the birds in the wild was on December 28, 1907, though sightings have been reported as late as the 1960s.

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