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Remembering the Huia – Mysteries of New Zealand’s Extinct(?) Bird With Two Beaks

Posted by: Karl Shuker on June 29th, 2013

One of New Zealand’s most iconic species of bird was the huia, famed for the male and female possessing beaks of dramatically different shapes. It officially became extinct in 1907 – but did it?

Huias, including an albinistic female, Johannes G Keulemans, c1900

“The huia’s morphology is unique. No other bird in New Zealand, whether native or introduced, can be readily confused with it – which is why the sizeable number of alleged post-1907 huia sightings has attracted notable scientific interest, with one such report, by a leading zoologically-trained cryptozoologist, dating from as recently as 1991. Also fascinating yet even less well known are various mysterious colour varieties that have been documented for this enigmatic species.”

Further details can be found here, on my ShukerNature blog.

Karl ShukerKarl Shuker – has written 51 posts on this site.
My name is Dr Karl P.N. Shuker. I am a zoologist (BSc & PhD), media consultant, and the author of 20 books and hundreds of articles, specialising in cryptozoology and animal mythology. I have a BSc (Honours) degree in pure zoology from the University of Leeds (U.K.), and a PhD in zoology and comparative physiology from the University of Birmingham (U.K.). I have acted jointly as consultant and major contributor to three multi-author volumes on cryptozoology and other mysterious phenomena. I am the Life Sciences Consultant to The Guinness Book of Records/Guinness World Records (Guinness: London, 1997-present day), and was consultant to Monsters (Lorenz Books: London, 2001), as well as a contributor to Mysteries of the Deep (Llewellyn: St Paul, 1998), Guinness Amazing Future (Guinness: London, 1999), The Earth (Channel 4 Books: London, 2000), and Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained (Chambers: London, 2007). I appear regularly on television & radio, was a consultant for the Discovery TV series Into the Unknown, and a question setter for the BBC's quiz show Mastermind. I am a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a Member of the Society of Authors, and the Cryptozoology Consultant for the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ). I have written articles for numerous publications, including Fortean Times, The X Factor, Paranormal Magazine, FATE, Strange Magazine, Prediction, Beyond, Uri Geller's Encounters, Phenomena, Alien Encounters, Wild About Animals, All About Cats, All About Dogs, Cat World, etc. In 2005, I was honoured by the naming of a new species of loriciferan invertebrate after me - Pliciloricus shukeri.


2 Responses to “Remembering the Huia – Mysteries of New Zealand’s Extinct(?) Bird With Two Beaks”

  1. Goodfoot responds:

    I don’t see two beaks on those birds! I feel ROBBED.

  2. DWA responds:

    Well. As to this:

    —————————
    However, we must also consider the possibility that Hutchinson’s evident interest in this species actually conspired against her. Could a combination of excitement and surprise at the bird’s brief and unexpected debut have ‘transformed’ it (albeit unconsciously) in her eyes from its true identity (some still-surviving species, such as a tui) into a huia? In short, could her huia have been an illusion, created unconsciously by an innate desire to see one? The human brain can play some quite extraordinary tricks on our eyes, often ‘filling in’ details that are not actually there, or modifying the appearance of an object to accord with some subconscious thought or memory – and all without the person concerned even realising what is happening.
    —————————

    Surely there have been enough purported sightings by now that this can’t be used to damn all of them. It hasn’t happened to me.

    I have some personal experience with the density of the Australasian bush as it relates to birding. Sulphur-crested cockatoos are among the most distinctive – and against rainforest, one might think the most visible – birds I have seen. I heard them constantly in the North Queensland bush…and never once saw one. I’d think that if huias were anywhere near as vocal their continued presence would either be long confirmed or out of hand considered unlikely. But if they’re generally quiet…well, suffice it to say that birding in the NZ places I walked wasn’t significantly easier than in NQ.



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