2015: 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 was hunted to extinction by the indigenous people, the Maori, presumably sometime between the late 14th century and early 16th century. […] Read More