I first came across this extraordinary species when reading Jonathan Elphick’s World of Birds. Even when looking at the little picture with the caption, I couldn’t even process the info. A bird of prey so large it tripled the size of our Golden eagle today? Nah. But I looked it up, and it is very real and it did exist. Here is what I learned:
The Haast’s eagle was the largest raptor in existence. This impressive bird of prey in the order Accipitriformes, is so colossal that is hunted down Moa, (now extinct) which weighed in almost three times as much as the bird itself. It was so large, it is said it was known to be a predator to humans as well.
Haast’s eagles were native to the South Island of New Zealand, and was hunted to extinction in the 1400’s by the native Maori, not long after the Moa was wiped out. The Haast’s eagle was very similar to the eagles today, such as Stellar’s sea eagle, and Golden eagle, only a little larger. Despite their huge size, the raptor had a relatively short wingspan. The female had a wingspan of around eight and a half feet, and weighed around thirty pounds. New world vultures of today though, exceed that span, by a few inches.
A scale of the Haast’s eagle compared to the Golden eagle and a human.
C: NZ Birds Online
A recreation of what the Haast’s eagle may have looked like.