11 species of these flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, ranging from 40 to 600 pounds. Early Maori settlement sites are littered with moa bones suggesting they were an important food of the first peoples.
These birds were the dominant herbivores in New Zealand's shrub-lands, forests and subalpine ecosystems for thousands of years. Up until the arrival of the Māori their only predator was the Giant Haast's Eagle. The first human's settlers are believed to have arrived from Polynesia around 1280 AD - no Moa bones are found in caves that were occupied after 1400 AD.
When Moa bones were first discovered by Europeans in the 1830s, the birds were instantly declared a scientific marvel. Once the largest bird to have existed, Moa briefly became a New Zealand's national symbol - and New Zealand was called ‘the Land of the Moa’.
The two largest species: Dinornis robustus and Dinornis novaezelandiae, reached about 3.6 m (12 ft) in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about 230 kg (510 lb). It is estimated that, when Polynesians settled New Zealand circa 1280, the moa population was about 58,000.