Moa – An Extinct Bird, or an Elusive One?

By Christine Cowling As a child, growing up in New Zealand, I was a regular visitor at the Otago Museum in the city of Dunedin. I vividly recall gazing up in wonder at the carefully reconstructed model of a giant extinct native bird – the mighty moa. There were nine species of moa (in six genera) with the two largest species Dinornis novaezelandiae and Dinornis robustus reaching as tall as 12 feet, with necks extended, and weighing approximately 500 lbs. Moa were wingless herbivores, their only predator (prior to the arrival of humans) was the Haast’s eagle. Genetic studies have determined that moa were most closely related to South American tinamous, and not the ratite group (containing kiwi, emu, and ostrich among others) as previously presumed. Sadly, moa were hunted to extinction by the indigenous people, the Maori, presumably sometime between the late 14th century and early 16th century. […] Read More

Extinct Bird Found Alive and the Dodo May Be Next

Extinct means died out, wiped out, no more of them alive and never coming back – right? That’s what was said about the Myanmar Jerdon’s babbler, which was declared extinct after not having been seen since 1941. Last week, researchers confirmed that several adult Jerdon’s babblers were seen early last year. Could the dodo bird be found alive too? A video of what looks like a living specimen has a lot of people wondering and hoping. The Myanmar Jerdon’s babbler (Chrysomma altirostre) was discovered by British naturalist T. C. Jerdon in 1862, when the sparrow-sized birds were common in the Ayeyarwady and Sittaung river floodplains. Farming and commercial development quickly wiped them out and the last confirmed sighting was in July 1941. A team of ornithologists headed by Dr. Frank Rheindt from the National University of Singapore heard a call they recognized as a Jerdon’s babbler on May 30, […] Read More