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A Victorian Diorama of Extinct Huias

28th June 2023.

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

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 (estimate: £3,000-5,000), a fine cased diorama of Eurasian Bullfinches by T.E. Gunn, Naturalist of Norwich (estimate: £700-900), an early 20th century Giant Clam Shell (estimate: £500-700), and a modern re-creation of a Toco Toucan by the renowned taxidermist Carl Church of Pickering, North Yorkshire (estimate: £1,500-2,500).



The sale of Specimens and Material derived from Endangered Species 

All auction entries at Tennants are sold strictly in accordance with CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) regulations, and any necessary licences or Pre-sale approvals are obtained from Animal Health, Bristol.

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