Tail Feather from Extinct Huia Bird Fetches PHP1.6M at Auction

Extinct Huia Bird Tail Feather Sells for PHP1.6M at Auction

NEW ZEALAND – A single tail feather from the extinct huia bird sold for an astonishing $28,400 (PHP1.6 million) at an auction, setting a new record for the most expensive feather ever sold. The auction took place on May 20, 2024, at Webb’s Auction House, underscoring the historical and cultural value of the huia bird feather, last seen in the early 20th century.

Initially, the auction house expected the feather to fetch around $1,830 (PHP65,000), but the final bid far exceeded expectations, reaching 46,521 New Zealand dollars (NZD). Historically, a huia feather could command about $5,100 (PHP181,000) in bids.

The extinct huia bird held significant importance for the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand. The feather symbolized influence within the tribe and was used in body decorations and ceremonial headdresses. It was also a valuable item for barter and a symbol of friendship and respect when given as a gift. Due to the feather’s rarity and cultural importance, bidders had to be registered collectors with ministry permission to participate in the auction.

In the 19th century, both Maori and European New Zealanders hunted the huia bird extensively, leading to its extinction. The bird’s feathers and preserved bodies became highly sought-after items. In 1901, the Duke and Duchess of York were seen wearing hats adorned with huia feathers, increasing their desirability. Despite efforts by scientists to save the remaining huia birds by relocating them to offshore islands, they were still captured and sold.

In modern times, the huia feather remains a coveted fashion accessory, even as the bird’s population dwindled. An auction in the United Kingdom in 2023 saw a pair of taxidermied huia birds sell for $280,000 (PHP9.9 million), highlighting the enduring allure and high value of these extinct birds.

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