THE HUIA - The
huia was unique as the only bird in the world with completely
different beak forms in the male and female.
The extinct huia Heteralocha acutirostris was endemic,
as the only species in the Heteralocha genus, which
belongs to the Callaeidae family, of the Passeriformes
order of perching birds.
The huia was one of only three species that make up
the entire Callaeidae family of New Zealand wattlebirds,
which is endemic. Today, the family only includes kokako
Callaeas cinerea, and saddleback Philesturnus carunculatus.
The wattlebirds of New Zealand are not found anywhere
else in the world, and the huia was unique as the only
bird in the world with completely different beak forms
in the male and female.
The ancient Callaeidae family flew to New Zealand 60
million years ago, and like many birds in the isolated
archipelago, adopted ground feeding habits in an ecology
devoid of mammalian predators with the exception of
three bat species.
Extinction of the huia Heteralocha acutirostris in 1907
was a tragic loss to New Zealand's ancient native avifauna.
It serves as a reminder of the importance of bird protection.
The huia was probably New Zealand's most eccentric
bird. It was a large 48 cm (19 inch) black bird with
a bright orange "wattle" at the base of an
ivory beak. It had a distinguishing wide band of white
at the end of its long tail feathers.