The Giant Bird From New Zealand, the Moa
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The Giant Bird From New Zealand, the Moa

The Moa was a giant flightless bird that was native to New Zealand. They all went extinct around 1400 CE, about 100 years after the first humans arrived in New Zealand.

The Moa was a giant flightless bird that was native to New Zealand. At one time, there was 11 different species of Moa; they all went extinct around 1400 CE, about 100 years after the first humans arrived in New Zealand.

Despite being large and unable to fly, the Moa was closely related to small flying birds from South America. The Moa was a very strange bird, not only were they the only bird in their family that could not fly, they were far larger and different looking than any other flightless bird. The largest of the 11 Moa species was the “Giant Moa”. They usually stood about 11 feet tall and weighed around 500 pounds; they would dwarf today's ostriches by about 3 feet and a couple hundred pounds. Unlike most species of animals, the female Moa was larger than the male, some females being triple the weight and almost double the height of the males. The strangest thing about the Moa is that they did not have wings. Scientists believe that the Moa's ancestors lived around 70 million years ago and because they evolved in isolation, they did not develop wings like normal birds. The Moa had feathers like other birds on their bodies, but had a featherless head and neck much like a vulture; their feathers were dark brown and their head and neck had a light brown skin tone.

The Moa was strictly an herbivore. They ate leaves, roots, nuts, berries, fruit and sometimes even tree bark when food was scarce. They were the largest herbivores in New Zealand. Due to their size, they only had two predators, man and the Hasst's eagles. Hasst's eagles were large predatory birds that hunted in pairs, attacking the flightless bird's vulnerable and exposed areas. Hasst's eagles hunted Moas for thousands of years and never affected their population, yet it took man only 100 years to hunt the Moa to extinction. Due to over hunting, the Moa shared the same fate as the Dodo bird. The Hasst's eagle eventually shared the same fate as the Moa too, going extinct from over hunting and loss of prey.

If alive today, the Moa would probably be farmed for meat or for their eggs; their eggs were around 10 inches long and 7 inches wide. They were gigantic birds compared to what lives on earth today. A Christmas dinner with Moa instead of the traditional turkey could be interesting; I am just not sure where we would find a roasting pan big enough for one.

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Comments (1)

Interesting. I'd very much appreciate the sources for this piece.