The Moa once lived in New Zealand and is related to the emu, the kiwi, the cassowary and the ostrich

Moa is a common name for a flightless bird that is now extinct. The Moa once lived in New Zealand and is related to the emu, the kiwi, the cassowary and the ostrich. There were difference species of moas and some were about as big as turkeys and others were about ten feet tall.

This bird was wingless and had a short, stout bill. Some of their remains have been preserved in caves and bogs include pieces of skin, bones, egg shells and feathers. The reason for this bird’s extinction is not really known.

Moas, as well as several other orders of extant and extinct birds belong to the ratite group. All of these birds in this group were flightless and shared other common anatomical features. All in all, there were approximately ten species.

Some of the species of moa were even taller than the elephant bird which was about 7 feet by 13 feet. That was approximately twice the height of a tall man. It is believed that the neck projected forward like that of a kiwi rather than upwards. They were much lighter than the elephant bird only getting up to about 275 kg. The eggs of the Giant Moa were ten inches long and seven inches wide. Females were about 1 ½ times the size of the male and about three times the weight of the male. In times past, it was thought that the males and the females were in different species due to the size difference. However, it is now known that that was not true.

The moa was a huge ratite running bird just like the Elephant Bird. However, it inhabited the grasslands as well as the forest-fringe in a large variety of species and of great numbers. Scientists later nicknamed them the “terrible birds”. The Polynesians, who were very aggressive, became a Moa-hunting culture. This had a devastating effect on the bird, which did not have any know predators in 100 million years.

When the Europeans finally discovered New Zealand in 1770, the giant moas were then extinct. The official extinction date of the moa was given as 1773. Bones of these birds were first discovered in the 1830s and that is the first encounter that the Europeans had with the moa. The exact number of species is debatable, but it is believed that there were eleven in all. There was only one natural predator on New Zealand that was large enough to tackle the moa. That was Haast’s Eagle, which is another extinct giant.

John Rule, an Englishman, brought back a fragment of a very large leg-bone in 1838. Richard Owen, who was a paleontologist in London, examined this bone but dismissed it as just a myth or a hoax. It took many more bones and several more years to convince the naturalists that the moa really did exist. Some moa bones were sent to Reverend William Williams in 1843. He was a missionary as well as geologist and found that two English whalers had made a sighting in 1842 of an extraordinarily large-sized bird. They described this bird as being approximate 14 to 16 feet tall.

Several moa skeletons remain on display in European museums as well as some museums in New Zealand. There are reconstructions and models there that are based on these skeletons. It is thought that The Moa resembled the kiwi in several ways. It is thought that there was communal living in both species and that the males brood the eggs.