Tag Archives: Emeidae

Are there Maori traditions about the extinct Moa(s)? part: 2

The Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand), have a very rich oral tradition that actually dates back to the time when their ancestors first arrived at the shores of the islands!

These traditions, however, have greatly been influenced by Europeans settlers, especially by missionaries, who tried to destroy the Maori by banning everything Maori: traditional clothing, traditional musical instruments, songs, religious beliefs, even the Maori language itself, everything was banned and violations were punished severely. 

No one can say how much knowledge was destroyed during these times.

Kotahi tonue tama 
Te tiaki whenua, 
Ko te kuranui
Te manu a Rua-kapanga, 
Itahuna e to tupuna, e Tamatea 
Ki te ahi tawhito, 
Ki te ahi tupua, 
Ki te ahi na Mahuika. 
Na Maui i whakaputa ki te ao 
Ka mate i whare huki o Repo-roa, 
Ka rere te momo, e tama e!

This is the end part of a large Maori poem that can be dated back to the 14th century, around the time when the first Maori settlers arrived at the shores of Aotearoa (New Zealand).

The poem mentions the kuranui, the bird of Rua-kapanga, which is said to have been the first person to have spotted the bird; te kuranui might be translated as ‘the large red one’, ‘the large precious one’ or maybe as ‘the most precious one’.

Furthermore it also informs us about the fate of these kuranui(s): “… destroyed by your ancestor, Tamatea, with underground and supernatural fire, the fire of Mahuika (a fire goddess), brought to this world by Maui; they were driven into the swamps and perished …” [1]



[1] Otto Krösche: Die Moa-Strausse, Neuseelands ausgestorbene Riesenvögel: Die neue Brehm-Bücherei 322. A. Ziemsen Verlag 1963


edited: 02.11.2021

Moa feather

This little feather comes from an Elephant-foot Moa (Pachyornis elephantopus (Owen)), which was found on the South Island of New Zealand and was exterminated about 600 to 500 years ago through hunting and habitat destruction.

reconstruction of a ca. 500 years old, subfossil feather

The feather is approx. 3.5 cm long and incomplete, but the original colors have been preserved to this day. [1]



[1] Nicolas J. Rawlence; Jamie R. Wood; Kyle N. Armstrong; Alan Cooper: DNA content and distribution in ancient feathers and potential to reconstruct the plumage of extinct avian taxa. Proceedings of the Royal Society 276: 3395-3402. 2009


edited: 21.11.2020