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Moa were large flightless birds that went extinct in the late 1700's or early 1800's. These huge, bulky birds lived in lowland forests on the islands of New Zealand. The word moa comes from the Maori language, in which the plural of moa is moa (we are using that convention).

When it lived: The oldest-known moa fossils date from 2.4 million years ago. The last of the moa (the smaller species) lived on the South Island of New Zealand until the 1700's.

Predators: On its native New Zealand, there were no large mammals to prey on the moa or its eggs; its only predators large birds, like the Haast eagle (which is now extinct). When the Maori people moved to New Zealand over 1,000 years ago, they destroyed much of the moa's lowland forest habitat and introduced mammals, including dogs and rats. These mammals ate the moa's eggs. The Maori people also hunted and ate the moa. These forces probably contributed to the extinction of the moa.

Anatomy: The moa had a large body, a small head, a long neck, short, thick legs, and a large beak. There were 11 species of moa. The largest was almost 11.5 feet (3.5 m) tall and weighed perhaps 700 pounds (320 kg); the smallest of the moa were turkey-sized.

Eggs: The moa's nest was located on the ground (leaving the eggs vulnerable to predators).

Diet: The moa was an herbivore (plant-eater); it ate fruit and some plant material (like leaves). These birds swallowed stones (which went into gizzard) that helped digest the food.

Classification: Kingdom Animalia (animals), phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata (vertebrates), class Aves (birds), order Dinornithiformes, family Anomalopterygidae (the lesser moa) and family Dinornithidae (the greater moa). There were 11 (or possibly 13) different species of moa, including Dinornis, the biggest moa and the biggest bird that ever lived.

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