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Moa in the Maniototo

The name Moa came from Polynesia and was given to the domestic fowl (birds). However, when Polynesians arrived in New Zealand, the name was given to these giant flightless birds that roamed Aotearoa. 

The Moa were a high quality catch, with the South Island Giant Moa standing up to 2 metres tall, weighed over 250kg and were the largest known bird species. The South Island Moa was one of nine species in New Zealand with seven living in the South Island. 

Moa lived in all sorts of habitats such as inland shrubland, forests, coastal dunes and grasslands. 

The hōkioi or pouākai (giant Haast Eagle) was the Moa's main predator before the Māori hunted the Moa to extinction. Introduced dog species by Māori may also have contributed to the declining numbers with dogs eating Moa chicks. 

Before extinction, Moa were a valuable food source for early Māori. Māori moved with their food sources, so when numbers of Moa ran low in one area, they would move their people to another. 

From archaeological evidence, early Māori ventured up the Waihemo River to the Ida Valley. Hunters would use fire to draw out the bird life, Moa being a prized catch. As well as Moa being a great food source, the feathers could be used for warm clothing and their bones for hooks and jewellery. 

'South Island Giant Moa', New Zealand Birds Online - The digital encyclopedia of New Zealand birds, 2013.
Te Rangi Hiroa, The Coming of the Maori - The Moa Hunters, Māori Purposes Fund Board, 1949, Wellington, available through the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection -Te Pūhikotuhi o Aotearoa

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