As a rule, my informants frankly admitted they knew nothing about the moa. One man, however, said the last moa was killed on the Waimea Plains about five generations ago, and gave some very plausible details. There is just a possibility that one of the smaller kinds of moa may have survived long after the big birds became extinct, or that a very large kiwi was killed, but I do not place absolute reliance on the tradition.
One man said, “Just a few chains below the Mataura Falls is Te-kohaka-a-moa (the nest of the moa). It is a round depression on a flat rock, and the old people thought it resembled a moa's nest. They also found moa bones about it. Near Clinton is the hill Te-kohaka-a-pouakai (the nest of the pouakai). The pouakai was one of the kinds of moa that lived in this land. A small sea-bird is now called pouakakai: but do not mix the name. The pouakai has not been seen for many generations; the pouakakai is quite common yet.” From this it appears that the southern Maori recognized that there were different species of Dinornis.
The late Tare-te-Maiharoa, than whom there was no greater authority in recent years, was positive the moa was extinct when the Maori came, a.d. 1350. They were killed out in the South Island by the Waitaha, who called the birds pouakai. The name moa was given by the latest comers who saw the bones lying about. “The Moriori of the Chatham Islands,” said Tare, “were related to the Kati-Mamoe, but left New Zealand very long ago.”
This accounts for the poua bird of Moriori traditions. It is simply the moa of New Zealand, which was probably on the point of extinction or already extinct when that people left this country. The last Maori note I have on the moa runs, “I have heard a song which says the moa was killed out by karakia (tau-whaka-moe-tia) because it was a dangerous bird, but how long ago I cannot say.”