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.
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.
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).
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.
No information available.
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- Breeding season
- Egg laying dates