Eberhart, George, in Mysterious Creatures, 2002:
Roa-RoaFlightless BIRD of New Zealand that might be a
Etymology: Maori (Austronesian) word, also
used for the great spotted kiwi of South Island.
Variant names: Roa, Rua, Tokoweka.
Physical description: A kiwilike bird about the
size of a turkey, though larger birds have been
reported occasionally. Gray, blue, or spotted
plumage. Small head and beak. Long neck.
Sharp spurs on its feet.
Behavior: Call is similar to that of a kiwi.
Tracks: Three-toed. The middle toe measures
up to 14 inches from heel to tip.
Distribution: South Island, New Zealand; also
possibly in Urewera National Park on North Is-
land, New Zealand.
Significant sightings: George Pauley claimed
to have seen a bird 20 feet high by a lake in
southern South Island in the 1820s.
Walter Buller wrote that the Maoris claimed
a large kiwi lived in the Chatham Islands until
In January 1861, fresh-looking, three-toed
prints about 14 inches long were found in the
mountains between Takaka and Riwaka in
northern South Island by members of a survey-
Sir George Grey was told in 1868 about a
small moa captured and killed near Preservation
Inlet, North Island. It had been taken from a
drove of six or seven birds.
In 1878, several people reported seeing a sil-
ver-gray bird larger than an emu on a station
near Waiau, South Island. In one instance, a
sheepherder’s dog flushed the bird from a patch
of scrub and chased it for about 40 yards before
it turned and chased the dog. The moa stood for
ten minutes watching them, bending its long
neck up and down like a swan.
Seven-year-old Alice McKenzie touched a
big, navy-blue bird at Martin’s Bay, near Mil-
ford Sound, South Island, in 1880. It was at
least 3 feet tall and had dark-green, scaly legs
and three claws on each foot. It began to attack
her, so she ran home to get her father, who re-
turned and measured the tracks it left.
In 1896, some schoolboys saw a moalike bird
cross a road in the Brunner Range, South Is-
In 1963, a scientist saw a large, moalike bird
in the brush in the North-West Nelson State
Forest Park, South Island.
In May 1991, Jim Straton saw an enormous,
dark-colored bird cross a hiking trail in front of
him along the Waimakariri River. He estimated
its height at 11 feet.
Paddy Freaney and two other hikers pho-
tographed a 6-foot-tall moa in the Craigieburn
Range of South Island on January 20, 1993. It
was covered with reddish-brown and gray feath-
ers and had thick legs and huge feet. Their
blurry photo, snapped after the bird had started
running away, is inconclusive.
Rex and Heather Gilroy made plaster casts of
three-toed tracks, the largest of which were 9.5
inches long, that they found in September 2001
in Urewera National Park, North Island.
(1) A surviving species of the Moa family
(Dinornithidae), possibly the Upland moa
(Megalapteryx didinus), which is generally
thought to have been exterminated by the
seventeenth century. Some Maori
informants suggest the bird may have
persisted into the late eighteenth century.
Relatively fresh remains were occasionally
found in the nineteenth century. M. didinus
stood about 3 feet 6 inches high, while the
Large bush moa (Dinornis novaezealandiae)
was 7 feet tall and the Stout-legged moa
(Euryapteryx geranoides) was about 6 feet
tall. Most of the alleged sightings by
Europeans date from 1850 to 1880. The
majority of Maori accounts of the final
extinction of the moa place it between 1770
and 1840, though 25 percent of them put it
prior to 1600. It seems increasingly unlikely
that such a distinctive bird could have
survived virtually unnoticed. Frequent moa
hunts have failed to turn up any sign of the
birds’ recent survival.
(2) An unknown species of Kiwi (Apteryx
spp.). A cloak made for a Maori chief has
kiwilike feathers that are larger than those of
any known kiwi.
(3) The Great spotted kiwi (Apteryx haasti)
only grows to 2 feet tall and does not have
(4) The Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri) is a
rare, flightless rail with blue plumage that
lives on South Island.
Sources: Ferdinand von Hochstetter, New
Zealand: Its Physical Geography, Geology and
Natural History (Stuttgart, Germany: J. G.
Cotta, 1867), pp. 173, 181–197; Walter
Lawry Buller, A History of the Birds of New
Zealand (London: Walter Lawry Buller,
1888); Alice McKenzie Mackenzie, Pioneers of
Martins Bay: The Story of New Zealand’s Most
Remote Settlement (Christchurch, New
Zealand: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1952);
Michael M. Trotter and Beverley McCulloch,
“Moas, Men, and Middens,” in Paul S.
Martin and Richard G. Klein, eds., Quaternary
Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution (Tucson:
University of Arizona Press, 1984), pp.
708–727; Atholl Anderson, Prodigious Birds:
Moas and Moa-Hunting in Prehistoric New
Zealand (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1989), pp. 176–178; “Trampers See
‘Moa’ in Bush,” New Zealand Herald, January
25, 1993; Geoff Mercer, “Obsession and
Stories Sparked by Scientists,” Wellington
Evening Post, January 26, 1993; “New Zealand
Moa Sighting Reported by Three Witnesses,”
ISC Newsletter 11, no. 4 (1992): 1–5; Karl
Shuker, “The Case of the Missing Moa,”
Fortean Times, no. 69 (June-July 1993):
42–43; H. W. Orsman, ed., The Dictionary of
New Zealand English (Auckland, New
Zealand: Oxford University Press, 1997), p.
676; Darren Naish, “Cryptozoology of the
Moa: A Review (Part One),” Cryptozoology
Review 2, no. 3 (Winter-Spring 1998): 15–24;
Errol Fuller, Extinct Birds (Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University Press, 2001), pp. 28–51;
Rex Gilroy, “Search for the Little Scrub Moa
of New Zealand,” Australasian Ufologist 5, no.
6 (2001): 4–9.
I should also add that Rex Gilroy reports what could be the tracks of all three forms.
Best Wishes, Dale D.