Dr Paul Scofield numbering moa bones

Registering bird bones at the North Otago Museum

While the front part of the North Otago Museum is closed to the public we have been using that space to sort out some of our collection objects. Most recently we have been working on the museum’s collection of bird bones.

Most of the bones in our museum’s collection are moa bones. We have bones from four different species of moa: South Island giant moa Dinornis robustus, Eastern moa Emeus crassus, Heavy-footed moa Pachyornis elephantopus and Stout-legged moa Euryapteryx curtus subspecies gravis.

Other bones in our collection include extinct species such as the South Island adzebill Aptornis defossor and the South Island goose Cnemiornis calcitrans. More familiar species in the collection include kiwi, kereru and kea.

We have bones in the collection from a number of local sites including Totara, Five Forks and Ardgowan. Most of the bones in our collection are from birds that died naturally and then the bones were preserved in swampy ground. Many of the bones were recovered in the 1980s but they come from birds that died thousands of years ago,

With the support of National Services Te Paerangi and Canterbury Museum, we were very fortunate to have Dr Paul Scofield at the museum on an Expert Knowledge Exchange in March. Paul is the Senior Curator Natural History at Canterbury Museum. The recent work on the collection has involved updating the information about each bone in our digital collection database. We have now recorded information about the species of bird the bone comes from; the name of the particular bone; the geographical site the bone was recovered from and the current museum storage location of the bone. Better organised information makes it easier to find the right item when we are planning displays or responding to research enquiries.

Chloe Searle