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Dinornis robustus.jpg
South Island giant moa
Dinornis robustus
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Aves
Sub-class Neornithes
Infra-class Neoaves
Order Information
Superorder Apterygimorphae
Order Dinornithiformes
Population statistics
Conservation status Extinct

Moa were a number of species of large, flightless birds, endemic to New Zealand, ranging in size from a little larger than a turkey to 13 feet tall, the tallest known birds. They were hunted to extinction shortly after the arrival of the native Maori population in the mid-15th century.


Moas were stout-bodied birds with long necks and large legs. Illustrations depict them as being entirely erect in the manner of ostriches, but in reality their posture was that of emus or cassowaries, the body kept horizontal when walking, with the neck held in a gentle forward loop. The head was relatively small in relation to the body, with small eye sockets and large olfactory regions, indicating they may have had poor eyesight but a good sense of smell. Moas are also distinctive in that they are the only birds known not to have wings, not even vestigial ones.

The only feathers known come from the upland moa (Megalapteryx didinus), with were dark at the base, gradually turning to a greyish-white at the tip, and possibly giving the live bird a light speckling appearance over a dark coat. They were rough and rather hair-like in texture, similar to a kiwi, lacking the barbules which link the filaments together as in other birds.


Order Dinornithiformes

  • Family Dinornithidae
Genus Dinornis
North Island giant moa, Dinornis novaezealandiae
South Island giant moa, Dinornis robustus
  • Family Emeidae
Genus Anomalopteryx
Little bush moa, Anomalopteryx didiformis
Genus Emeus
Eastern moa, Emeus crassus
Genus Euryapteryx
Coastal moa, Euryapteryx curtus
Stout-legged moa, Euryapteryx gravis
Genus Pachyornis
Crested moa, Pachyornis australis
Heavy-footed moa, Pachyornis elephantopus
Mantell's moa, Pachyornis geranoides
  • Family Megalapterygidae
Genus Megalapteryx
Upland moa, Megalapteryx didinus


Prior to the arrival of man the nine species of moa had one natural predator, Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei). In about the year 1280 the Maori arrived and began the first human settlements and the clearing of land for farming. Hunting was also an activity, and the only large animals of any kind in New Zealand were moas. It had been estimated previously that hunting and habitat change caused the gradual extinction of the moas by the late-1700s, however, recent carbon-14 studies on trash middens have shown that all moa species became extinct by 1445, a span of less than 200 years after man's arrival.[1][2]


Encyclopaedia of New Zealand - Moa
Moa on TerraNature