By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Co-ordinator, Radio – Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
If you have been to see Taika Waititi’s film The Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) you will remember the scene in which the two main characters discover the long-believed-extinct huia bird, while they are deep in the bush.
In real life, the last authenticated sighting of a huia is generally believed to have been in 1907 in the Tararua Ranges, north of Wellington. Sound recording technology was in its infancy when the huia died out, so there are no recordings of the actual bird call itself. However, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s sound collection holds several recordings about the huia, including eyewitness descriptions of it – and a re-creation of the bird’s call by a man who remembered them well. You can hear me talking about these recordings with RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan here or listen to the full recordings below.
The sad tale of the huia holds a great deal of fascination for many people – both Māori and Pākehā, as well as people overseas. In my role as Client Services Co-ordinator, I handle requests from people who want to hear sound recordings from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s collection. In the case of the huia, these might be ornithologists, academics interested in aspects of extinction, or artists and musicians inspired by the melancholy idea of being able to hear the call of the bird that has long been silenced.
This usually leads them to one particular recording, which is the re-creation of the huia’s call.