AUCKLAND – Scientists have discovered that the now extinct Haast’s eagle was more than a scavenger and maybe even ate humans!
Haast’s eagle went extinct about 500 years ago. It lived in the mountains of New Zealand, where it was originally thought to be just a scavenger bird.
Because it died out awhile ago, probably due to habitat destruction and the encroachment of Polynesian settlers, scientists need to use CAT scans of fossils to closely examine body parts. These usually indicate certain things about their behavior.
Scientists learned that the eagle weighed about 40 pounds, and was a vicious predator. It would have hunted flightless birds such as the moa, pictured above, and possibly even unarmed humans.
This was determined by comparing a reconstruction of its skull with modern day predator birds.
Paul Scofield of the Canterbury Museum of New Zealand said, “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.”