H. moorei was powerful enough to attack and prey on giant flightless birds, the moa, weighing 10 to 15 times their own body weight. This documentation suggests that the Māoris coexisted with the Haast’s eagle for at least some time. John Fowler/FlickrThe Haast’s eagle was one of the top predators of South Island before human settlers arrived in the late 13th century. They inhabited the South Island of New Zealand, which was a hidden oasis to a number of unique birds in prehistoric times. As it turned out, the two birds shared a common ancestor sometime near the start of the most recent Ice Age. Meanwhile, female harpy eagles — the largest living eagles in the world today — just weigh up to 20 pounds. Reconstruction of predation by Haast’s Eagle (Harpagornis moorei) on South Island giant moa (Dinornis robustus). The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa TongarewaA Haast’s eagle museum figure hardly captures the majesty of the giant predator that once stalked New Zealand. Wikimedia CommonsThe Haast’s eagle was the largest eagle species on Earth before it went extinct. Indeed, the world’s largest eagle breed today would be dwarfed by the massive Haast’s eagle of the past. That is, of course, until the Māoris arrived on the islands in the 13th century. The strongest and biggest bird of prey that ever existed was the Haast’s Eagle (Harpagornis moorei) of New Zealand, and it became extinct around the 1400s soon after the Maori settled the South Island of New Zealand. Before the arrival of humans, New Zealand was a thriving ecosystem of unique wildlife unlike anywhere else on Earth. The Haast’s eagle’s extinction is a reminder of man’s far-reaching impact on the ecosystem. Meet The Haast’s Eagle, New Zealand’s ‘Lost Giant’ That Went Extinct 600 Years Ago. It’s clear that the overhunting of moa birds diminished its population — and this severely affected the Haast’s eagle’s ability to thrive without its major food source. Natasha Ishak is a staff writer at All That's Interesting. Lost Photo Of Lincoln Of His Deathbed Surfaces — But Some Historians Are Skeptical, Indigenous Woman Live-Streamed Hospital Nurses Insulting Her On Her Death Bed, What Stephen Hawking Thinks Threatens Humankind The Most, 27 Raw Images Of When Punk Ruled New York, Join The All That's Interesting Weekly Dispatch. Credit Original artwork by Ray Jacobs/Canterbury Museum. Scientists estimate that the Haast’s eagle first came to be on the island about 2 million years ago before it evolved into the giant eagle that captivated — and possibly terrorized — the first human inhabitants. Haast’s eagle specimens at a museum in Auckland, New Zealand. The Haast’s eagle is labeled the largest known eagle of all time, it was even bigger than today’s vultures. Haast’s Eagle hunting moa. Further excavations on the South Island yielded more remains of Haast’s eagles, thus providing researchers with a fuller picture of the story. It used its talons to kill them on the ground and didn’t carry off its prey. “On an evolutionary time scale, that is essentially yesterday.”. It’s believed that the raptor would swoop down at speeds of nearly 50 mph to attack the moa. A 2019 analysis of the Haast’s eagle’s genetics surprised researchers when it revealed that the giant eagle was closely related to Australia’s Little Eagle, a small breed that measures up to 21 inches and weighs only 1.8 pounds. Evolutionarily speaking, Haast’s Eagle took the place of the apex predator that hunted grazers, a space taken up by the moa species. Legends and cave drawings of the giant eagle — or pouakai as the Māoris called the flying beast — were part of Māori culture. These were giant flightless birds that weighed about 440 pounds. Females were considerably larger than males, they weighed 10 – 15 kg (22–33 lb) , while males’ weight ranged from 9 to 12 kg (20–26 lb). While the Māori people lived among the Haast’s eagles, the bird wasn’t known to European settlers who explored the islands in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Haast’s eagle thrived for centuries in the wild as an apex predator within its ecosystem on South Island. I also think, that if the haasts eagle was very well able to attack and kill an adult giant moa, it could also attack and kill and adult human being or even a cow. It was essentially a land of birds. But even though it might sound exaggerating a little bit to kill an adult man or cow, it perfectly isn’t, especially when you consider that these giant predatory birds were able to kill birds that weighed up to 250 kilograms and stood up to 12 feet tall. The Haast’s eagle was the largest eagle species known to man. So when the moa birds — the eagle’s food source — died off, the eagle likely perished shortly thereafter. Bones of the Haast’s eagle were uncovered by a museum taxidermist in 1871. But their primary food source was one of the largest animals on the island: the moa. Keep up with the latest scitech news via email or social media. Fuller relayed the exciting news to the director of the Canterbury Museum, Julius von Haast, who issued the first scientific description of the bird. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. The Haast’s eagle was the largest eagle species known to man. That said, it’s worth noting that the eagle probably wasn’t always as menacing as it was during that time period. SciTechDaily: Home of the best science and technology news since 1998. These humongous birds weighed up to 33 pounds and had an 8-foot wingspan. When the Maori hunted the moa to extinction in the 1400s, barely a century after their arrival, there was no prey large enough to sustain the Haast’s Eagles, so they became extinct quickly. Wikimedia CommonsBones of the Haast’s eagle were uncovered by a museum taxidermist in 1871. And the giant eagle’s existence remained unknown to European scientists until 1871 — when museum taxidermist Frederick Fuller dug up its bones while exploring a swamp in North Canterbury.