Rare taxidermy New Zealand Huias could fly

A very rare Victorian cased pair of extinct New Zealand Huias are to be sold with an estimate of £15,000-25,000 in Tennants Auctioneers’ Natural History and Taxidermy Sale on September 8.

The superb quality male and female huia full mounts were mounted by James E. Whiting, Naturalist, of 19 Heath Street, Hampstead, and are presented perched on a branch and surrounded by hummingbirds, rocks and foliage.

A Cased Pair of Extinct New Zealand Huias, circa late 19th century


Even before the arrival in New Zealand of Europeans, huias were rare birds confined to remote areas and mountain ranges of the south-east of the country’s North Island. The birds are renowned for having the greatest difference in bill shape between the male and female of any bird species; the female’s beak being long, thin and arched downwards whilst the smaller male’s is short and stout. The tail feathers of the huia had broad white bands across the tips, a unique feature amongst New Zealand birds.

Huias were much prized as taxidermy specimens, and their tail feathers were often used in fine millinery. This, combined with widespread deforestation of their natural habitat by European settlers to create pasture land meant the species was driven into extinction. The last confirmed sighting of a huia was in 1907, although there was a credible sighting in 1924.

Also on offer in the sale are an impressive large late Victorian cased White Pelican and White Ibis mounted in 1879 by James Gardiner, estimated at £3,000-5,000; a fine cased diorama of Eurasian Bullfinches by T.E. Gunn, Naturalist of Norwich, estimate of £700-900; an early 20th-century Giant Clam Shell, estimated at £500-700, and a modern re-creation of a Toco Toucan by the renowned taxidermist Carl Church of Pickering, North Yorkshire, estimated at £1,500-2,500.