Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Humming birds: why is the real thing always worth less than a fake?

18 October, 2011 - 09:54 -- John Burton
Magnificent Hummingbird

On 29th September 2011 Christies, the auctioneers sold three hummingbird specimens that were 'taxidermed' by John Gould. The estimate for the three specimens, in a nice presentation box, was between £1,500 and £2,000 and they sold for £1,875.

If I went to Henry Sotherans (who have generously donated to the World Land Trust in the past) I could pick up a lithograph of a hummingbird with modern hand colouring for around £500, or if I wanted an original from Gould's day I would expect to pay around £1,000 or more.  So how ever you look at it, a decent picture or stuffed humming bird is around £500 a head, and for £2,500 I could buy three stuffed, and a decent drawing.

None of these are the real thing.  But for the same £2,500 I could expect to fund the purchase of up to 25 acres of land in Ecuador or somewhere else in South America, with perhaps 20 or so individual hummers per acre, of a wide range of species. That's perhaps 500 or more hummingbirds. And that's only £5.00 a bird; a real living, gem of a bird. To me it's a no brainer surely we have got our priorities wrong when dead specimens and drawings are worth more than the real thing. Perhaps a new internationally agreed tax is the answer: 100% tax for any image of a rare species sold, to go to the conservation of the species in the wild.

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Submitted by PJ McCaughn on

There is so much redeeming value to all that you say. Unfortunately, it is so hard to get the average human being to really SEE the reality that IS nature. If you can drag them out into the woods and SHOW them their eyes begin to open. There is nothing more satisfying than to take a city dweller into the countryside and enlighten their senses.........

Submitted by Kevin Morgan on

In general, I agree... except that specimens, properly documented, can be of enormous value to science in ways that living birds cannot (and, it's true, certainly vice versa).

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