The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

South Island Adzebill

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch - Joy of Museums - South Island Adzebill

The South Island Adzebill is extinct and was known only in New Zealand. This skeleton is a composite specimen reconstructed from bones collected at Pyramid Valley Moa swamp in North Canterbury. They became extinct before the arrival of European explorers.

In life the Adzebills were massive  “crane-like” birds about 80 cm in length with a weight of 18 kg, making them about the size of small Moa, with which they were initially confused on their discovery.  The Adzebill had an enormous downward-curving and pointed bill, and strong legs. They were flightless and their coloration in life is not know.

Aptornis BW

Illustration of Adzebill based on remains

The Adzebills were never as widespread as the Moa, but subjected to the same hunting pressure as all other large birds by the settling Polynesians and the predation of eggs and hatchlings by their accompanying kiore Polynesian rat and dogs.

Essential Facts:

  • Exhibit:                   South Island Adzebill
  • Date:                        1400
  • Origin:                     Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Museum:                 Canterbury Museum, Christchurch


“As man disappears from sight, the land remains.” Maori Proverb



Photo Credit:By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Nobu Tamura ( (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons