Tag Archives: Heteralocha gouldi Gray

Heteralocha acutirostris (Gould)

Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris)  

The Huia is a very well-known extinct bird, it is furthermore well-known especially for its remarkable sexual dimorphism with the males and females differing so much from each other in the form and length of their beaks, that originally both sexes were described as distinct species respectively (see depiction below, which shows the heads of the female above, described as Neomorpha acutirostris Gould and the male below, described as Neomorpha crassirostris Gould).  


DNA investigations on stuffed specimens in 2009 showed that some of the short-billed, alleged male individuals in fact were females; it is now assumed that probably all females had short beaks like the males when they were young, which then started to elongate subsequently. [1]  


The species originally inhabited all parts of North Island, New Zealand, but was already pushed back to a few areas with small relict populations by the Maori in pre-European times.  

The final end, however, came when the tail feathers, highly prized by some of the Maori tribes, were “discovered” by the European fashion industry as accessory for hats. The birds were shot in great numbers, and the former dense forests were cut down.  

The last Huia were finally seen at the beginning of the 20th century, but there are sometimes rumors that they may survive somewhere in the deep forest of New Zealand’s North Island, yet, no such forest exists any longer, thus the Huia is and will stay extinct.  



[1] David M. Lambert; Lara D. Shepherd; Leon Huynen; Gabrielle Beans-Picón; Gimme H. Walter; Craig D. Millar. The Molecular Ecology of the Extinct New Zealand Huia: PLoS ONE 4(11): e8019. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008019. 2009  


Depiction from: ‘John Gould: A synopsis of the Birds of Australia and the adjacent islands. London 1837-38’  

(public domain)


edited: 31.10.2017