The smallest of three moa species in the genus Pachyornis, Mantell's moa vied with the little bush moa for the title of smallest of all moa species. It was one of two moa species that were confined to the North Island and Aotea/Great Barrier Island, the other being the North Island giant moa. Adult females were markedly larger than adult males; the average size increased further south and during glacial periods. Its remains are abundant in archaeological sites, indicating that it was hunted for food. It was probably preyed on by the large North Island Eyles' harrier. The species was named after Walter Mantell, a pioneering New Zealand naturalist, government administrator and politician of the 1800s. DNA study suggests that moa were more closely related to the flighted South American tinamou than to the kiwi.
Mantell’s moa was a robust, small moa. As with several moa species, adult females were much larger than males.
Similar species: of the four moa species that occurred in the North Island, Mantell’s moa was most likely to have been confused with the equally small but more slender little bush moa, or small individuals of the stout-legged moa. It differed from the latter in being stouter, with a more elongated skull.
Distribution and habitat
Mantell’s moa was endemic to the North Island, where it was mainly found in lowland areas, particularly wetlands and dunelands, including in the Far North, coastal Taranaki, and Hawke’s Bay.
Bones of Mantell’s moa are abundant in archaeological sites, indicating that it was widely hunted for food.
Threats and conservation
The main cause of extinction was overhunting by humans. Moa chicks may also have been eaten by the introduced Polynesian dog (kuri).
The scant information deduced about moa breeding ecology is also likely to apply to Mantell’s moa, namely delayed maturity, pairs breeding well separated from each other, small clutch size, male-only incubation, and a long incubation period.
Behaviour and ecology
Little is known about the ecology of Mantell’s moa. It was probably preyed on by the large North Island form of Eyles' harrier.
The sturdy bill of Mantell’s moa suggests that it had a fibrous diet.
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- Breeding season
- Egg laying dates