Temporal range: Late Holocene
Aaz - Copia
An artist's illustration of Dinornis robustus
Conservation status
Extinct  (1280)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Paleognathae
Order: Dinornithiformes
Family: Dinornithidae
Genus: Dinornis
Owen, 1846
Referred species
  • Dinornis novaezealandiae (Owen 1843) (North Island giant moa)
  • Dinornis robustus (Owen, 1846) Bunce et al. 2003) (South Island giant moa)
  • Dinoris (lapsus)
  • Megalornis Owen, 1843 non Gray, 1841: preoccupied, nomen nudum
  • Moa Reichenbach, 1850
  • Movia Reichenbach, 1850
  • Owenia Gray, 1855
  • Palapteryx Owen, 1851
  • Tylopteryx Hutton, 1891

The giant moa, also known as Dinornis, is an extinct genus of large birds that lived in New Zealand until the end of the 18th century. During this time, it was assumed that it was hunted to extinction by aboriginal Maori, for whom they were easy prey. Around two species of Dinornis are known (Dinornis robustus and Dinornis novaezealandiae), each reaching a height of 3.5 m and weighed about 250 lbs. Unlike most other birds, the moa was totally devoid of wings. It would have fed on vegetation on tree branches thanks to its long neck and its short, curved beak.


The giant moa is likely the tallest bird to have walked the Earth. Similar to emus and cassowaries, the females were much taller and heavier than the males, with the largest specimens standing 3.6 m (12 ft) tall. Their weight have various estimates, with weights of 230–240 kg or 278 kg (610 lbs) being the most common. The feathers of the moa are believed to be reddish brown and hair-like according to remains, and it is likely that their chicks were speckled or striped to camouflage them from predators.



While the actual reproduction process of the moa is unknown, it has been hypothesized that the females may have competed with each other to mate with the much smaller males, who themselves were already quite territorial. The eggs were enormous; being as large as a rugby ball and having 80 times more volume than a chicken egg. Despite this, the eggshells were highly thin and were estimated to be one of the most fragile bird eggs. It has even been hypothesized that the males would have adapted a smaller size than the females to avoid crushing the eggs, although it is possible that they would have curled around the eggs instead of directly sitting on them. Once the chicks hatched, they likely would have been able to see, run and look after themselves.


The giant moa, along with other moa genera, were wiped out by human colonists who hunted it for food. All taxa in this genus were extinct by 1500 in New Zealand.

A life-like restoration of a Moa (Dinornis)

It is reliably known that the Māori still hunted them at the beginning of the fifteenth century, driving them into pits and robbing their nests. Although some birds became extinct due to farming, for which the forests were cut and burned down and the ground was turned into arable land, the giant moa had been extinct for 300 years prior to the arrival of European settlers.

In popular culture[]

  • Dinornis the Giant Moa was first Featured in David Attenborough's Documentary The Living Planet "Worlds Apart" as a Skeleton.
  • Dinornis the Giant Moa featured in 2 Nissan Cup Noodle commercial and was animated by the Chiodo Bros.
  • Dinornis the Giant Moa also featured in an episode by BBC called Monsters We Met AKA Land of lost Monsters.
  • It was also featured in Discovery Channel's Wild Discovery "what killed the Mega Beasts".
  • It appeared in another David Attenborough documentary An Hour & a half film called Natural History Museum Alive.
  • It makes a minor appearance in Discovery Channel's Mutant Planet aka Planet Evolution episode "New Zealand" where it was seen as a ghost looking at the egg of its small cousin the kiwi bird & later eating leaves.
  • Both Skeletal remains and 'Life sized replicas of the Giant Moas are featured in Wild New Zealand by National Geographic or by BBC.



New Zealand's Giant Bird Monsters Wild New Zealand

The Moa on National Geographic Wild.