Moa refers to a now-extinct, flightless bird species that once inhabited the islands of New Zealand. The term "moa" is commonly used to describe a diverse group of nine species of large, herbivorous birds that were part of the ratite family. These birds were known for their towering height, with the largest species estimated to reach heights of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters).
Moas had long legs, small wings, and lacked a keel on their breastbone, rendering them incapable of flight. They had stout bodies, thick necks, and distinctive, elongated beaks. Their plumage varied among the species, with some having smooth feathers while others had spiky, hair-like structures. They were primarily herbivores, browsing on plant matter that included leaves, fruits, and seeds.
The moa's extinction is believed to have occurred around the 15th century, following the arrival of Polynesian settlers to New Zealand. Human hunting, habitat destruction, and introduced predators are identified as major contributing factors to their demise. The moa's extinction has left an imperative gap in the ecosystem, and their remains have provided valuable insights into New Zealand's natural history. Today, moas are significant cultural symbols for the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, and they hold an important place in the country's folklore and traditions.
The word "moa" has its etymology rooted in the Māori language, which is spoken by the indigenous people of New Zealand. The Māori term for "moa" is "moa", and it is derived from Proto-Eastern Polynesian "moa". This word refers specifically to the extinct flightless birds native to New Zealand, known as moa. The term "moa" has been adopted into the English language to describe these large, ancient bird species that became extinct around the 15th century.