Story: Natural environment

Moa (2nd of 3)


Due to a lack of mammalian predators, birds in New Zealand evolved in a unique manner. One of the adaptations in New Zealand was gigantism. Birds such as the moa (Dinornithiformes) evolved into large, flightless creatures – a role usually reserved for mammals. They browsed vegetation and nested on the ground. The word ‘moa’ means ‘chicken’ in many Polynesian languages, but the Polynesian arrivals (ancestors of Māori) must have been amazed by how big the moa of New Zealand were. They were hunted to extinction, probably within 100–200 years.

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How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Natural environment - Fauna', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Carl Walrond