A monogamous species, the huia was believed to form lifelong breeding pairs, which lived in close association. Breeding occurred in early summer, with the female laying a clutch of two to four eggs in a saucer-like nest constructed from dried grass, leaves and twigs (5).
While both sexes fed extensively on the grubs of the large nocturnal beetle (Prionoplus reticularis), which inhabit decaying wood (2), the differences in bill shape and size allowed the male and female to obtain the grubs from different sources, potentially reducing competition for food between the sexes (6). The male used its stout beak to chisel into the surface of the wood exposing its prey, while the female used its long, slender beak to probe into cavities and burrows in the wood that were inaccessible to the male (2). Due to misinterpretations of a late 19th century account of the huia, there has been some confusion about whether breeding pairs assisted each other in foraging. Although the male’s feeding behaviour certainly exposed previously inaccessible grubs to the female, it is unlikely that this was a deliberate cooperative strategy (3). The huia also fed on berries and other invertebrates, generally preferring to hop, rather than fly, between tree branches and along the forest floor as it foraged (2) (5).