New Zealand Birds’
(The Greytown Gallery)

65 Wood Street
Post Office Box 146
Greytown, 5742
New Zealand

Mobile: +64 (0)27 508 5078 [email protected]

Historical fantasy

Available from Amazon Te Tini o Toi book cover

Te Tini o Toi, The Children of Toi, (book one), by Narena Olliver

The Ancient Moa Hunters at Waingongoro


“The date of the extinction of the Moa has always been a favourite theme for discussion among scientists in New Zealand, some contending that it had long ceased to exist before the advent of Maori to these shores, others arguing that it lived contemporaneously with this race down to very recent times.


“The former hypothesis has for its champion and principal exponent Mr Colenso, of Napier, who states that his belief is based on the fact that there is nothing in the proverbs or stories of the Maori to show that they knew anything of this gigantic wingless bird. It seems, indeed, strange to me that an authority on Maori manners, language and mythology of such eminence as Colenso should never have gleaned anything about the Moa from the natives he met. This is so contrary to my own experience that I cannot refrain from narrating an incident that came under my observation during the native war on the West Coast.


“It was some time in 1866, during a visit Sir George Grey, at that time Governor, paid to the West Coast, that I, with Kawaua Paipai and other natives from Wanganui, accompanied Sir George to the mouth of the Waingongoro River, where were the redoubts held by the Imperial troops. Here Sir George met Wiremu Hukanui, a chief of the Ngatiruanui, and supposed to be neutral; he was also a relative of Paipai.


“After the talk was over Wiremu left, when a discussion arose about the Moa, and Kawaua Paipai stated that in his youth he had joined in hunting the Moa on the Waimate Plains, which are close by. On being questioned, he gave a description of how they used to hunt and destroy this grand old bird, which was as follows: “The young men,” he went on to say, “stationed themselves in various parts of the plains, and when a Moa was started it was pursued by one of these parties with wild shouts, and sticks, and stones, until they were tired, when another detachment would take up the running, and so on, until the Moa was exhausted, when a chief would administer the coup de grace.” Paipai said that great efforts were made to drive it into the high fern, the more easily to tire it out. “I”, continued the old warrior, “was a youngster at that time, and often used to join in the chase.”


“I forget now whether it was Sir George or one of the officers who expressed doubts as to the absolute correctness of what Paipai stated, thinking he was simply relating what he had heard, which doubt raised the old man’s ire. He got up, and, casting his eye around as if seeking aid to his memory, said, “What I have told is true; and we used to bring them here to our fishing village, and cook them in large ovens made expressly for them. Let some men bring spades, and I will show them where to uncover the ovens.” Some six or seven fatique–men were assembled, and Paipai pointed out where they were to clear away the sand. After shovelling away some 6ft. square of sand, 3ft. in depth, a stone about the size of a 32lb. shot was turned up, blackened and burnt by fire, and then a number of other stones that had evidently been used for cooking, until a Maori oven some 5ft. in diameter was uncovered, containing over and under the blackened stones heaps of broken and partly charred Moa bones — portions of skulls, and huge thigh–bones, which latter Paipai said had been broken, so that the oil, or fat, could be sucked out of them. The ring bones of the throat, or gullet, over an inch in diameter, were there in plenty — like curtain rings. I threaded a number on a flax stick. More ovens were uncovered, and Sir George obtained some good specimens. I think Dr. Spencer, now in Napier, got a number, as did many others.


“Paipai described the plumage, which he said was of a brown colour, and unlike that of the kiwi, the feathers being larger and coarser, and more like those of the emu. He said the moa fought fiercely when brought to bay, and that it struck out with its feet, but was easily killed with clubs.


“Kawaua Paipai died some four or five years ago. He must have been over ninety, at least, and by what he said he was about sixteen years old when these birds were killed and eaten; so that would bring the time to near the beginning of this century.”

Anomalopteryx didiformis, Little bush Moa.
Megalapteryx didinus, Upland Moa.
Pachyornis elephantopus, Heavy-footed Moa.
Pachyornis australis, Crested Moa.
Pachyornis geranoides Mantells Moa (was P. mappini, Mappin’s Moa).
Emeus crassus, Eastern Moa.
Euryapteryx gravis (was E. geranoides), Stout-legged Moa.
Euryapteryx curtus, Coastal Moa.
Dinornis novaezealandiae, North island giant Moa.
Dinornis robustus, South Island giant Moa.

Other common names:  — 

kuranuni, manu-whakatau

Description:  — 

Extinct bird

Poetry:  — 

Tenei, E tama! Te whakarongo ake nei ki te hau mai o te korero,
Na Tu-wahi-awa te manu-whakatau i mau mai i runga i a Tokomaru
Parea ake ki muri i a koe, he atua korero ahiahi.
Kotahi tonu, E tama! Te tiaki whenua, ko te kura-nui,
Te manu a Rua-kapanga, i tahuna e to tipuna, e Tamatea,
Ki te ahi tawhito, ki te ahi tipuna, ki te ahi na Mahuika,
Na Maui i whakaputa ki te ao;
Ka mate i whare huhi o Reporoa, te rere to momo
E tama - e - i!

Listen, my son, for I hear rumours spoken
That the manu-whakatau was brought here
By Tu-wahi-awa on the Tokomaru canoe.
Reject this story as an idle tale.
One guardian only, O son, had this land,
The Kura-nui, the bird of Rua-kapanga.
Destroyed by your ancestor, by Tamatea, with subterranean and supernatural fire,
The fire of Mahuika, brought to this world by Maui.
Thus were they driven to the swamps and perished;
Thus was the species lost, O son

Transactions of the NZ Institute, Volume 48, 1916

Illustration description: — 


Trevor Lloyd postcard depicting Allblacks defeating British Lions, 1905.

Reference(s): — 


Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Volume 21, 1888.

Page date & version: — 


Tuesday, 16 July 2019; ver2009v1