Single feather of extinct bird sacred to New Zealand’s Māori people sells for £22k

Single feather of extinct bird sacred to New Zealand’s Māori people sells for £22k

A feather of New Zealand’s extinct huia has sold for $46,521 (£22,409), setting a new record for the feather of a bird sacred to the Māori people.

The sale at Webb’s Material Culture live auction on Monday topped the previous record for the price of a huia feather by 450 per cent, the auction house said.

The feather, largely brown with a white top, is now the most expensive feather ever sold at an auction.

Huia is special to the ethnic Māori people who used the bird’s feathers in headpieces for tribal chiefs and family elders as well as for gifting and trading.

The bird was last spotted in the wild in 1907, according to the Museum of New Zealand, but some unconfirmed sightings were reported for 20 to 30 years afterwards.

It was a “target for collectors”, according to the museum, “to be stuffed and mounted as decoration in wealthy homes”.

“It also came to be prized for modern fashion accessories,” it added. “For a while, hats trimmed with huia feathers were all the rage.”

“We are very pleased that this rare item of natural history has achieved such huge bidder interest,” said Leah Morris, head of decorative arts at Webb’s Auction House.

She added that the bidding highlights “the fragility of our ecosystem and the importance of looking after its fauna”.

The feather is “in wonderful condition” and not damaged by insects, Ms Morris told the BBC, adding that it still has a “very distinct sheen to it”.

According to the auction house, the feather is recognised for its importance by the Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture and Heritage and Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

The feather cannot leave the territory of New Zealand without permission from the country’s culture ministry.

The live auction also sold a carved wooden tobacco pipe by Māori carver Thomas Heberley, an assemblage of stone tools and a Pā Kahawai fishing hook.