Much larger than modern eagles, Haast's eagle would have swooped to prey on flightless birds — and possibly even the rare unlucky human. The Haast Eagles simply starved to death due to a lack of moa.. "Convincing data shows beyond doubt that this bird was an active predator, no mere scavenger. It would have to be an endlessly defenseless one for an eagle to even get close. They compared their data on the Haast's eagle to characteristics of modern predator birds and scavenger birds to determine that the bird was a fearsome predator that ate the flightless moa birds and even humans. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Haast’s eagle specimens at a museum in Auckland, New Zealand. As a result, approximately 100 years after humans arrived in New Zealand, both the moa and the Haast’s eagle … Unfortunately, despite instilling fear in the Maori settlers, the Haast’s eagle would eventually give way to New Zealand’s new apex predators: humans. The species was the largest eagle known to have existed, with an estimated weight of 15 kilograms (33 lb) nearly double that of the Harpy eagle at 9 kilograms (20 lb). "They provide a convincing case that the body of this eagle has rapidly enlarged, presumably adapting to the very much larger prey it had access to in New Zealand, but that the brain size had lagged behind this increase," he said in an e-mail interview. Scientists believe the Haast's eagle became extinct about 500 years ago, most likely due to habitat destruction and the extinction of its prey species at the hands of early Polynesian settlers. Much larger than modern eagles, Haast's eagle would have swooped to prey on flightless birds — and possibly even the rare unlucky human. Hundreds of years ago, a massive predatory bird soared through the skies and struck terror into the hearts of the first humans to arrive in New Zealand, the Maori. ", Jamie R. Wood, a researcher from New Zealand who has done extensive research on the moa, said the analysis strengthens the case that the eagle evolved quickly from a much smaller ancestor, "in what must be one of the most dramatic examples anywhere of how rapidly evolution can occur on islands. Appeals court rejects Trump challenge of Pennsylvania race, Biden's win hides a dire warning for Democrats in rural US, Venezuela judge convicts 6 American oil execs, orders prison, Trump administration moves ahead on gutting bird protections. Ken Ashwell of the University of New South Wales in Australia and Paul Scofield of the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand wrote their conclusions in the peer-reviewed Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. When Haast’s eagles ruled New Zealand, they were the country’s apex terrestrial predator and the largest raptorial birds in the world. This fear is reflected in the Maori legend of Poukai, an enormous man-eating bird. Scofield said the findings are similar to what he found in Maori folk tales. These giant raptors had a wingspan of 9.8 ft, which was quite small for their overall size, but their muscular bodies and legs more than made up for it. Moa were flightless birds, not unlike ostriches and emus, that which weighed over 440 pounds. Its massive size is explained as an evolutionary response to the size of its prey, the flightless moa, the largest of which could weigh 230 kg (510 lb). It certainly was capable of taking a person down. Watch: From the wildest corners of the planet, to extraordinary encounters in our own backyard, we provide a platform and community to celebrate the wildlife enthusiast in us all. Because fossils are so fragile and most of the species were never seen by humans, CAT scans allow researchers to closely examine body parts of the long-extinct animals to learn about their behavior, Scofield said. Before the humans colonized New Zealand about 750 years ago, the largest inhabitants were birds like the Haast's eagle and the moa. Females were the biggest and weighed over 31 pounds, grew to almost 5 feet in length, and stood nearly 3 feet tall. However, without any confirmed records of Haast’s eagle attacks prior to its extinction, we’ll never know for sure. The average adult human is less than half the size of an adult moa, and a human child would probably have been a mere snack. Skull of a Haast’s Eagle specimen. "The science supports Maori mythology of the legendary pouakai or hokioi, a huge bird that could swoop down on people in the mountains and was capable of killing a small child," he said.