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Moa

New Zealand's giant flightless bird

moa

Photo by Sciencemag.org

New Zealand’s largest birds probably became extinct within one hundred years of humans first arriving in New Zealand, around 1300 A.D.. However, there were unsubstantiated sightings of moa by whalers and sealers into the 18th and even 19th centuries. Moa were a family of eleven species of flightless birds that were only found within New Zealand. The largest species grew up to 3.7 m (12 ft) tall and weight up to 230 kg (510 lb) – no wonder they were hunted by Maori! They were the only wingless birds known to have existed – even their cousin the flightless kiwi still has little vestigial wings hidden under its feathers. Prior to their extinction, they were the dominant plant-eater in New Zealand’s forests and only had one predator, Haast’s Eagle; the largest eagle ever known to exist and also the victim of extinction following the demise of the moa to hunting by Maori.

Kiwi were long regarded as the closest relative to the moa, but recent studies suggest that either the Australia emu and cassowary or tinamous birds from South America are likely the closest cousins. Female moa grew considerably larger than their mates and weighed almost three times as much, in some cases. Although most images of reconstructed moa skeletons or artists’ impressions of the birds show them standing upright, it is likely that they actually moved along with their head out in front, just like a kiwi does. Despite almost always being portrayed as giants, some species of Moa were actually significantly smaller, much shorter than the height of a person, and some possibly as small as chickens!

Of course, completely lacking wings the question has been asked “how did the moa get to the islands of New Zealand”. It’s thought most likely that moa were already roaming New Zealand prior to it breaking away from the super-continent of Gondwana about 80 million year ago.

Many moa bones, eggs (including over 30 whole eggs), feathers, dehydrated skin and nesting materials have been found from a number of caves and other locations around New Zealand, in particular from the dry Central Otago region.

A preserved Moa (Megalapteryx) foot from the Natural History Museum (photo courtesy Ryan Baumann)

 

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Excellent Trip

    If you like outdoor activities this is your dream trip. The itinerary is very well planned. The scenery and landscapes are beautiful. Our guides Tia and Alex are fabulous. They are youthful, caring, knowledgeable, and extremely professional. Their hardwork made the entire trip smooth and enjoyable. Everyday is packed with interesting and exciting outdoor activities: multi-day hiking in Nelson Lake NP, kayaking in Milford Sound, biking along the shore of Wanaka Lake, and day hiking the Routeburn, Kepler, Sealy Tarns, Hooker Valley and many other beautiful short tracks in various NPs of the South Island. The group mates are very friendly and fun and the small group size made it easy to socialize. In addition, the food is healthy and very delicious. Thanks to every member of the group, in particular our great guides Tia and Alex, it is your care, warmth, encouragement, and tolerance that made this trip truly unforgettable.
    Siyuan Han Review Image
    – Kansas, United States
    Rimu, January 2017
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    Everything we hoped for and MORE.

    This was my first trip to New Zealand, and to the southern hemisphere. We had dreamed of this for many years, and it was so much more than we had even hoped for. So many memories and highlights: Morning alpine glow on Mt. Cook. Any day that it was sunny and you could see those amazing mountains. Turquoise alpine lakes. The day we spontaneously stopped at a deserted beach on the west coast, and saw Hector's dolphins frolicking. The picnic on the hill at Braemar's station. The nights at Braemar, the laughing and wine. Racheal (our guide) encouraging me and talking about growing up on a sheep farm while hiking up Key Pass. The stars at night - the Milky Way and upside down Orion! The mystical drive down to Milford Sound in the fog and light rain, and the clearing while on the boat. Going under a waterfall and just yelling in joy. The amazing, kind, funny and interesting people we met on our tour. If you are even thinking about it - go! You will not be disappointed.
    Jeannie Puglisi Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Kiwi, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Rimu - South Island

    Great trip, full of discoveries away from big city centers, the kind of adventure nature lovers will appreciate to the fullest. We had a great two weeks of travelling through the real NZ landscaping natural beauty and 14 days is not enough to see or do everything. We enjoyed hiking, kayaking, biking, swimming in pristine water, caving, always surrounded by super guides who made us feel in goods hands at all time.
    Claude Remy Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, December 2017
  •   4.44 out of 5 (from 908 reviews)

    2017 Manuka

    Went into the trip not knowing what to expect. Took the trip solo. Was hesitant on taking a guided tour. Felt like i wouldn't have the freedom to do things at my own speed. Not the case at all! Had virtually no restrictions on the hikes. Amanda and Holly let us move at our own paces. Overall trip was a blast! Couldn't have wished for more. Great hikes, great food, good sleeping accommodations, hard charging guides, everything was taken care of, didn't have to lift a finger. I will be back.
    Dan Baker Review Image
    – APO/FPO AP, United States
    Manuka, May 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Worth every penny!

    This was an amazing trip - highly recommended! Our guides, Koru and Liana, were great - kept us moving and active in all kinds of weather and conditions. Some of the planned tour had to be modified due to weather - it does rain a lot - but no regrets at all. We got a taste of New Zealand on beautiful days, rainy days, and once in rain, sleet and hurricane force winds, but we were always well cared for and felt like we'd seen New Zealand in all of it's majesty. The hiking was strenuous enough to feel like a challenge and leave us tired and a bit sore most days, but never too difficult. The Siberia Valley part of the trip was just spectacular! Koru's knowledge of New Zealand's native plants and animals, history, Maori heritage, and Lord of the Rings stories were particularly fascinating. Would love to go again!
    Bob Martin Review Image
    – South Carolina, United States
    Tui, December 2016

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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