Extinct for more than 500 years, New Zealand’s flightless moa bird has returned to the Wakatipu – at least in skeleton form.
Builder’s labourer Neil Jackson found a moa’s lower leg bone on one of Queenstown’s oldest habitable properties.
He unearthed the 25-centimetre bone during renovation work on an 1863 home on the Kingston highway, below Deer Park Heights.
“It was too big for a sheep or a goat or a deer and then I just had an inkling from my school education that it looked like a moa bone.”
Invercargill moa expert Russell Beck says moa birds weren’t uncommon in the Wakatipu, and suggests this one got bogged down in silt, which acted like quicksand.
Arrowtown-based Lakes District Museum director David Clarke says the metatarsal bone probably belonged to the heavy-footed moa species.
Property owner Justin Reid, of Invercargill, says he suggested to his family that he might frame it.
“My daughters were disgusted so I said I’m going to put it under their pillows and they were even more disgusted with that. I just might put it on the mantelpiece.”