Haast’s Eagle lived on the South Island of New Zealand but is now an extinct species. It is the largest species of eagle to have ever existed. It’s prey is most likely moa, which were large flightless birds that have a resemblance to ostriches. The size of the eagle had grown due to evolution and the size of it’s prey would also increased over time. Both Haast’s Eagle and moa would have been smaller when they both first came to the island. Lack of competition for both species meant that as the moa began to grow in size so did the eagle.
Below are a few facts about Haast’s Eagles:
- The females of the species were larger than the males. Female Haast’s Eagles have been estimated to have weighed between 10 – 15kg (22 – 33lbs) compared to males who weighed between 9 – 12kg (20 – 26lbs).
- The claws of the Haast’s Eagle were as long as a tiger’s and would grow up to 9cm in length.
- The prey of Haast Eagles were moa and other types of large flightless birds. The moa were up to fifteen times heavier than the eagles, and also much larger in size to ostriches.
- The speed at which the eagles attacked has been estimated to be at least 80km/h (50mph).
- The eagles used both claws to attack, seizing the pelvis of the prey with one talon and using the other to kill the bird with a blow to the head or neck.
- The largest known true raptors were Haast Eagles and they were even larger than any living vulture.
- The wingspan of the bird is estimated to be between 2 – 3 meters.
- The eagle had a standing height of up to 90cm and measured over 1.4 meters in length.
The Maori (New Zealand’s indigenous Polynesian people) hunted the moa and this led to them becoming extinct. This in turn led to the extinction of Haast Eagles in 1400 as their major food source was lost. The Maori also cleared a lot of the dense forest which was the habitat of the eagles. However, some reports suggest that the eagles may have been in existence in the 1800s when Europeans first arrived in New Zealand.