Tuesday, November 16, 2010

THE MOA BIRD

I will start by telling you the sad part first, which is that the moa is EXTINCT.  But before it was extinct, it was this really big bird that walked around all over New Zealand.  There were actually 11 species of moas, and the very biggest ones were 12 feet tall and weighed more than 500 pounds.  But some of the smaller moa species were only about the size of a turkey.

Moas didn't fly, mainly because they didn't have any wings.  They didn't even have any little flipper things that showed where maybe they used to have wings.  Nope, they were totally and completely wingless.



The moas evolved about 85 million years ago, when New Zealand separated from a big chunk of land called Gondwanaland.  Moas were part of a group of birds called Ratites, which was made up of ostriches, emus, and the elephant bird of Madagascar.  The elephant bird is also extinct now.

Anyway, the moas had a good thing going for them in New Zealand because they hardly had any predators, except for the Giant Haasts Eagle.  And if you are wondering why you never heard of this eagle, it's because it is also extinct, maybe because it ran out of moas to eat.






The only way we have to know about the moa birds is to study their fossil bones and fossil eggs and fossil poop.  Fossilized poop is called coprolites, which is maybe a new word for you, just like it was for me.  So now you know a new word that you can use to impress people next time you go to a party.  But anyway, some of the moa coprolites that have been found are a foot long, which is a really long piece of poop, if you ask me!



Several fossil moa eggs have been found, and the biggest ones are over 9 inches long and 7 inches wide.  Most of the eggs are white, but the upland moa had blue-green eggs.  The eggshells of some species were very thin, so probably the male birds sat on these eggs to keep them warm because males were smaller and lighter than females.  But a lot of eggs still must have got broken.

Moa nests were not very fancy.  They were probably just scratched-out places in the dirt inside caves or under rock shelters, and it is likely that moas didn't nest in colonies.




So anyway, life was pretty much hunky-dory for the moas until the Maori people arrived in New Zealand, which happened in about 1300 A.D.  The Maori found moas to be extremely yummy, so they hunted them a whole bunch, and also they cleared out some of the forests and places where the moas used to live.  So then the moas got to be extinct, probably before any white people even got there to see them.




Except that nobody can agree on exactly when the moa bird went extinct.  In the 1800s, people sometimes said they saw these birds while they were out looking for gold in remote parts of the South Island.  And then there were supposedly some other sightings of moas in 1931, 1960, 1989, and 1990.  And the latest time was in 1993.  Most scientists say the moa is definitely extinct, especially the biggest kind of moa.  They say it's possible that one of the smaller kinds has been living in the forest, and nobody has seen it, but this is not very likely, because there are many hikers and hunters in New Zealand.



I wish the moa wasn't extinct because it would have been really nice to eat a moa egg the other day when it was my birthday.  In fact, I could have eaten part of the same egg for breakfast and supper, and there would still have been enough left to share with my brothers and with Mom and with the cats, too!

18 comments:

  1. just think, everybody could have had a drumstick! (or part of one)
    very sad there are no moa
    any moa.

    Your friend,
    Zest, superstar in training

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  2. Yes, I think a nice, juicy moa would make a better Thanksgiving treat than a turkey, but it's too late for that now. Sigh.
    Your friend, Piper

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  3. umm so everyone wants to eat a moa? why not ride one?

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  4. Oh, yes! Riding a moa would be fun, I think. But more fun for anybody who just has two legs and can straddle the moa. With four legs, it's a little trickier, but I guess it could be done. So maybe I could go for a little ride first, and THEN I could eat the moa! LOL

    Piper

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  5. Last comment about egging the eggs. Yeah that's why it's no longer on the planet. Moron.

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  6. Sorry...'eating' the eggs.

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  7. Most the comment's actually about eating it. Nice. Makes me really happy to be a human, wipe out a species, then write comments about eating it..wow!

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  8. I wish it was still around coz then i could have it as a pet. and i could see what it tasted like!

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  9. you are all so random i would rather ride a moa than eat one

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  10. We humans are very good at killing each other as good as we kill other species to. Thanks to us every species on earth on the road to extinction!

    Well done Human beings! We are like a cancer on this planet!

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  11. wtf i would rather ride a moa than eat one cuz that drive them out of extinkstion

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  12. I love moas, I wish they were still alive, I would neva eat a moa! why couldn't maoris find something better to eat!

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  13. You could be pretty sure that the Europeans that settled NZ after the Maori would have wiped them out... probably organising hunting parties to kill them and then send them to museums in Europe like most of our now extinct birdlife. Walter Buller has a lot to answer for...

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  14. if only the moas could live until today... we could've kept the in captivity, hopefully regenerating more. And boy those eggs were huge!!!!

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  15. u guys are all just eggs, (haha see what i did ther :p) anway, i would never eat a moa egg, or a moa, incase u havent noticed, that is why they are extinct, and its mean to just say u want them back to eat them, then make them exinct again from eating them out! But yeh, riding one would be soo cool! but i wish i could just see one, and observe it in its natural habitat, because even that would be absolutely amazing

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  16. Oh my, some of you have really fallen for the untruths out there. Human are not responsible for all of the life on this planet going extinct, not even most. Evolution, planetary changes (Earth is a dynamic bio-sphere, meaning IT CHANGES), and astrological events, all things out of puny little man's hands, has had more to do with the extinction of more then 90% of the life that has EVER lived on this planet. An entire world full of dinosaurs, GONE, and not a man or SUV in sight to cause it! Probably the single most likely reason for the Moa having gone extinct, is the fact the the eggs had such thin shells, and piper mentioned that fact. A large number of eggs, I bet, were broken the minute they were laid by the mother and they hit the ground, many more probably broke due to having a heavy bird sit on it, if they even did. Maybe these birds didn't sit on the eggs and the environment had a larger then normal effect on the survivability of the embryo in that fragile egg. How many eggs were laid, and how many eggs were eaten by other animals (not humans)? In any case the most likely reason for this creature's extinction is that it was a poorly designed creature. Unable to reproduce prolifically enough to maintain it numbers against the harsh reality of life, some animals get eaten by giant eagles, some get injured, leading to infection and death, and still others get diseased and die. Life sure can suck, so cowboy up, no one said it would be easy or FAIR!
    Besides the author of this story IS A DOG! It is written from a dog's point of view, and it seems the dog might have a more enlighten view point then some. This beast might have been used as a beast of burden, if it could, but I bet it was a tasty chicken that could feed a lot of people!

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    Replies
    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Thanks for your comment, which was a very wise comment because you understand that I am a dog who likes to eat eggs and birds, too. I think we should just blame the thin egg shells for the extinction of the moa bird, and that way we dogs don't have to feel guilty, and neither do humans.
      Sincerely, Piper

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