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The King Country; or, Explorations in New Zealand. A Narrative of 600 Miles of Travel through Maoriland.

Wingless Birds

Wingless Birds.

The almost extinct family of the Struthionidœ, or wingless birds, of New Zealand, forms one of the most interesting features in the fauna of the country. All the members of this genus are wholly different from the common types of birds. They are remarkable for short rudimentary wings, entirely unfit for flight, and for bones nearly devoid of air cells; the leg muscles are of unusual strength and thickness; the feet are powerful and long, with three toes, while the plumage is composed of light, shaggy feathers, almost resembling hair. Before its period of extinction, the largest member of this family, known by tradition to the natives as the moa, was the giant of the feathered tribe, the height of the several species of this bird, as computed from its remains, being as follows:—

Feet. Inches.
Dinornis Giganteus 11 0
Dinornis Robustus 8 6
Dinornis Elephantopus 6 8
Dinornis Casuarinus 5 6
Dinornis Crassus 5 0
Dinornis Didiformus 4 8

Although the remains of all these birds are of extraordinary proportions, the Dinornis elephantopus, or elephant-footed moa, is page 364distinguished by the singularly massive construction of its leg bones. The sole remaining representative of these colossal birds is the apteryx or kiwi of the natives. Of this genus there are several species. The Apteryx Australis was the first made known to science, in 1812. The Apteryx Mantelli differs from the former kind in its smaller size, shorter toes, and longer bill and less developed wings, while its plumage is of a somewhat darker colour. The Apteryx Owenii is slightly smaller than the former species, with a greyish plumage. During his journey through the interior the author found the kiwi to be yet common in the Kaimanawa Mountains, the forests of the Whanganui, in the mountainous districts of Western Taupo, and at Mount Perongia.