Crested moa

Pachyornis australis Oliver, 1949

Order: Dinornithiformes

Family: Emeidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

 
 
 
Crested moa. Image 2006-0010-1/19 from the series 'Extinct birds of New Zealand'. Masterton. Image © Purchased 2006. © Te Papa by Paul Martinson See Te Papa website: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?irn=710918&term=Crested+moa

Crested moa. Image 2006-0010-1/19 from the series 'Extinct birds of New Zealand'. Masterton. Image © Purchased 2006. © Te Papa by Paul Martinson See Te Papa website: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?irn=710918&term=Crested+moa

The crested moa was one of three moa species in the genus Pachyornis, the most diverse moa genus. It was the only moa species considered to have had crest feathers, which grew from distinctive, small feather pits on the front half of the top of the skull. Crested moa mainly lived in subalpine shrubland and grassland at high altitude sites, such as Mt Arthur and Mt Owen in north-west Nelson. A few skeletons have also been found in coastal dunes in Southland. As crested moa mainly lived in the remote interior of the South Island, their remains are rare or absent at archaeological sites. No egg remains have yet been identified. DNA study suggests that moa were more closely related to the flighted South American tinamou than to the kiwi.

Identification

The crested moa was a huge, thick-set bird with robust legs, a broad, rounded head, and a relatively short, robust bill that was pointed like that of the upland moa. As its common name suggests, it was the only moa species that is believed to have had a crest.

Similar species: the upland moa overlapped much of the range of the crested moa; it was a smaller bird lacking a crest.

Distribution and habitat

Crested moa were confined to the South Island, mainly inhabiting subalpine shrublands and grasslands, plus coastal dunelands in Southland.

Population

The crested moa is known from the remains of about 100 individuals. They have yet to be confirmed from archaeological sites.

Threats and conservation

The main cause of extinction was probably overhunting by humans for food. Crested moa chicks may also have been eaten by the introduced Polynesian dog (kuri).

Breeding

No information.

Behaviour and ecology

This was the only moa species considered to have had crest feathers, which grew from distinctive, small feather pits on the front half of the top of the skull. These may have been used in courtship displays. Most remains have been found in subalpine shrubland and grassland at higher altitude sites, such as Mt Arthur and Mt Owen in north-west Nelson. Crested moa had large olfactory chambers, suggesting an acute sense of smell.

Food

No information available.

Weblinks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crested_Moa

References

Anderson, A. 1989. Prodigious birds: moas and moa-hunting in prehistoric New Zealand. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Baker, A. J.; Haddrath, O.; McPherson, J. D.; and Cloutier, A. Genomic support for a moa-tinamou clade and adaptive morphological convergence in flightless ratites. Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol 31, Issue 6, June 2014.

Bunce, M.; Worthy, T.H.; Phillips, M.J.; Holdaway, R.N.; Willersley, E.; Haile, J.; Shapiro, B.; Scofield, R.P.; Drummond, A.; Kamp, P.J.J.; Cooper, A. 2009. The evolutionary history of the extinct ratite moa and New Zealand neogene paleogeography. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106: 20646-20651.

Gill, B.; Martinson, P. 1991. New Zealand's extinct birds. Random Century, New Zealand.

Phillips, M.J.; Gibb, G.C.; Crimp, E.A.; Penny, D. 2010. Tinamous and moa flock together: mitochondrial genome sequence analysis reveals independent losses of flight among ratites. Systematic Biology 59: 90-107.

Rawlence, N.J.; Wood, J.R.; Armstrong, K.N.; Cooper, A. 2009. DNA content and distribution in ancient feathers and potential to reconstruct the plumage of extinct avian taxa. Proceedings of the Royal Society. B 7 (1672): 3395-3402.

Szabo, M. 2005. Hobbit-sized raptor became 'Lord of the Wings'. Forest & Bird, May 2005, Issue 316: 12.

Szabo, M. 2006. Extinct birds of New Zealand: a preview. Forest & Bird, November 2006, Issue 322: 22-24.

Tennyson, A.; Martinson, P. 2006. Extinct birds of New Zealand. Te Papa Press, Wellington.

Tennyson, A.J.D. 2010. Dinornithiformes. Pp. 11-18. In: Checklist Committee (OSNZ) Checklist of the birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica (4th ed.). Ornithological Society of New Zealand & Te Papa Press, Wellington.

Wood, J.R. 2008. Moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) nesting material from rockshelters in the semi-arid interior of South Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 38: 115-129.

Wood, J.R.; Wilmshurst, J.M.; Wagstaff, S.J.; Worthy, T.H.; Rawlence, N.J. et al. 2012. High-resolution coproecology: using coprolites to reconstruct the habits and habitats of New Zealand’s extinct upland moa (Megalapteryx didinus). PLoS ONE 7: e40025.

Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N. 2002. The lost world of the moa: prehistoric life in New Zealand. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Worthy, T.H.; Scofield, R.P. 2012. Twenty-first century advances in knowledge of the biology of moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes): a morphological analysis and diagnosis revised. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 39: 87-153.

Recommended citation

Szabo, M.J. 2013. Crested moa. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Crested moa

Breeding season
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Egg laying dates
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