Moa CGI 1

Moa Freaney photograph

Giant Moa

Vital statistics

Country New Zealand
First documented sighting circa A.D. 1300(prehistoric encounters)
circa 1700's (modern)
Latest documented sighting
Other names Giant Moa

Scientific information

Recognized by science? No
Proposed species name Dinornis
Major investigators Rex Gilroy

Popular Culture

Episodes featured in
Pop culture references David Attenborough's Life of Birds
Monsters we Met: End of Eden
Prehistoric Predators of the Past: What Killed the Mega Beasts?
Probably it was a solitary bird, and died, its remains may yet be found in that swamp, that is one reason I wished to have had a description of it in my book.
— Alice McKenzie.

The moa is a species of giant ratite bird, officially considered extinct, native to New Zealand. Sightings still persist, but like many Australian cryptids, sightings have waned in recent years.

Name etymologyEdit

Moa is a Maori word.

Physical appearance and biologyEdit

Giant moa are very large birds, with long legs and a long neck, although sightings generally report smaller individuals. They possess short hair-like feathers, similar to kiwi feathers, and have scaly legs. Notably, moa have no wings whatsoever, having 'shed' them during evolution.

Behaviour and traitsEdit

Moa are generally peaceful animals, but they are skittish when confronted by people. This is understandable, given the hunting. They are exclusively herbivorous.



Moa footprints are discovered sometimes, and Rex Gilroy has found an area of scrub full of footprints. He believes a small colony of bush moa to be surviving in the area.


Maori hunters were hunting moa as late as the 1770's. Travelers were also sometimes waylaid by moa in the mountains[1]. Whalers also reported seeing monstrous birds on the coast[2].

circa 1820'sEdit

In the 1820s, a man named George Pauley made an unverified claim of seeing a moa in the Otago Region of New Zealand[3][4].


A large 'emu' weighing about 227kg was apparently trapped in 1844 by whalers. The captain sent the body to the Natural History Musuem in London, but it never arrived[5].

circa 1850'sEdit

An expedition in the 1850s under Lieutenant A. Impey reported two Emu-like birds on a hillside on the South Island[6].

A moa was reportedly captured by sealers in 1850[7].


James Cameron, a shepherd on the Manapouri Run, claimed to have seen a huge bird emerge from the bush across the river about 1860[8].


An 1861 story from the Nelson Examiner told of three-toed footprints measuring 36 centimetres (14 in) between Takaka and Riwaka that were found by a surveying party[9].


A small party of natives reportedly killed a small moa in 1868 or 1867[10].


A runholder saw the tracks of a large bird on the west bank of the Waiau and his shepherd later encountered a bird larger than an emu with silvery-grey, green-streaked plumage. The runholder later denied both reports[11].


A farmer and his shepard saw a moa in 1878[12].


An 80-year-old woman, Alice Mckenzie, claimed in 1959 that she had seen a moa in Fiordland bush in 1887, and again on a Fiordland beach when she was 17 years old. She claimed that her brother and father had also seen a moa on another occasion.

Many people around Martin's Bay, the beach town, had seen the moa footprints in the sand. Alice believed it to be nocturnal, as the footprints were always found in the morning. She also speculated that it lived in the nearby swamps.

She claimed that, when she was a child, she saw and approached the bird. It was fine with her, until she tried to tie it up, at which point it chased her off[13].

The footprints continued to be seen for at least ten years.


The most recent alleged sightings of a Moa occurred on January 20, 1993, in the Craigieburn Range of New Zealand when hotel owner and former instructor with the British Army’s elite Special Air Services Paddy Freaney, and his companions Sam Waby and Rochelle Rafferly sighted and photographed what they insisted was a 6 foot tall Moa.

The three men were hiking when they claimed to have come across a large bird. Freaney would later state that the minute he saw the creature he knew it was a Moa.

They claimed that the creature they saw stood about 3 feet off the ground and had a thin, long neck, of another 3 feet, ending in a small head and beak. The bird had reddish brown and grey feathers that covered its entire body with the exception of its legs below the knees, a feature Heuvelmans later supported by stating that there was no evidence that the Moa did not have feathered legs[14].

Seeing the three men the Moa took off across a steam, Freaney, an outdoor survival expert with the SAS, gave chase and was able to take a photograph of the Moa at a distance of nearly 115 feet. He also snapped a picture of what he thought was the bird’s footprints on a rock and of a similar print in the river bed. The resulting out of focus picture appears to show a large, medium brown bird with a horizontal body, a tall, erect neck and a head that may have been looking toward the camera, a clear view of the creatures legs is obstructed by a rock formation.

The photo was given to an image processing group at the University of Canterbury’s electrical and electronic engineering department for review. After studying the blurry photograph for 3 days Kevin Taylor, spokesperson for the group, announced that the analysis had gone as far as it could and, in the groups opinion, the object in the photo did appear to be a large bird. 

Weeks after Freaney’s sighting bad weather in the back country all but eliminated the proof of his Moa encounter, especially the footprints in the river bank[15][16].

That same year, two German trekkers in New Zealand recorded a Moa sighting in a hiking outpost logbook. German Cryptozoologist Ulrich Magin confirmed that the two Germans had been in New Zealand at the time of the reported sighting[17].

Image galleryEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

Further cryptozoological readingEdit