Our Huia

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The huia is an extinct species of New Zealand Bird prevalent in the North island of New Zealand. The last confirmed sighting of a huia was in 1907, although there were credible sightings into the 1960s

In Māori culture, the "white heron and the Huia were not normally eaten but were rare birds treasured for their precious plumes, worn by people of high rank". The bold and inquisitive nature of the huia made it particularly easy to capture. Māori attracted the huia by imitating its call and then captured it with a tari (a carved pole with a noose at the end) or snare, or killed it with clubs or long spears. Often they exploited the strong pair bond by capturing one of a pair, which would then call out, attracting its mate, which could be easily captured. Opinion on the quality of huia meat as food varied wildly; although not usually hunted for this purpose, the huia was considered "good eating" in pies or curried stew by some,but a "tough morsel" and "unfit to eat" by others.

Although the huia's range was restricted to the southern North Island, its tail feathers were valued highly and were exchanged among tribes for other valuable goods such as Ponamu and shark teeth, or given as tokens of friendship and respect. Through this trade, the feathers reached the far north and the far south of New Zealand.

 They were stored in intricately carved boxes called waka huia, which were hung from the ceilings of chiefs' houses. Huia feathers were worn at funerals and used to decorate the heads of the deceased. The marereko, described by Edward Robert Tregear as an "ancient war-plume", consisted of twelve huia feathers. The highly valued pōhoi was an ornament made from the skin of the huia: the bird was skinned with the beak, skull and wattles attached and the legs and wings removed, carefully dried, and the resulting ornament worn from the neck or ears.Dried huia heads were also worn as pendants called ngutu huia. A captured huia would be kept in a small cage so that its tail feathers could be plucked as they grew to full size.

The bird was also kept by Māori as a pet, and like the tūī, it could be trained to say a few words. There is also a record of a tame huia kept by European settlers in a small village in the Forty-Mile Bush in the 19th century.

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Monday, 15 July 2024

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