Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 16th, 2009
In 2007, when Tony Lucas shared his list of “Lesser Known Cryptids of New Zealand,” one he mentioned was the Pouakai.
Tony wrote on Cryptomundo:
The Maori (or Ma¯ori) folklore tells of the Pouakai, a large bird that often attacked warriors and was quite capable of carrying off children. Could this have been the now extinct Haasts eagle, Harpagornis moorei (shown above), said to be one of the world’s largest living eagle? Female Haast’s eagles weighed 10 to 15 kg (22 to 33 lb), and males weighed 9 to 10 kg (20 to 22 lb). They had a wingspan of roughly 2.6 to 3 m (8 to 10 ft) at most, which was short for a bird of the eagle’s weight (the largest Golden Eagles and Steller’s Sea Eagles may have wings of almost the same width), but aided them when hunting in the dense forests of New Zealand.
I noted that Harpagornis had been shown to be synonymous with Hieraaetus, according to Darren Naish.
Now comes the following story, which has been making the rounds all week, from Auckland, New Zealand: “Haast eagle was ‘ultimate killing machine’” ~
It might not have killer crocs but New Zealand was once home to an even more fearsome creature that could rip apart humans with its claws.
New research has confirmed that a giant man-eating bird long spoken of in legends actually existed.
And the Haast eagle was even bigger and more deadly than first thought, fulfilling the same role as the killer lions of Africa.
Each creature had a wingspan of three metres and weighed almost 20kg, making more than twice the size of the largest eagle that survives today.
“It was certainly capable of swooping down and taking a child,” Paul Scofield, of Canterbury University in New Zealand, said.
Its talons were as big as a tiger’s claws, making it the ultimate “killing machine”, he said.
“They had the ability to not only strike with their talons but to close the talons and put them through quite solid objects such as a pelvis.”
Until now, the eagle has been nothing more than a legendary bird called a Te Hokioi by Maori.
The first known account of this mystical bird was given to 19th Century New Zealand governor Sir George Grey, who described it as a huge black-and-white predator with a red crest and yellow-green tinged wingtips.
Pictures of the giant creature could be found all through early Maori rock drawings but they were presumed imaginary.
Remains of the Haast eagle had been collected in the 1870s but early examinations found it was a scavenger like a vulture.
However, new tests of the skeletons using modern technology, including CAT scans, have revealed the eagle and legendary Te Hokioi are one and the same.
The research, published in The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, concluded the bird is the Kiwi equivalent of the great African lion.
It survived on a diet of moa, another giant but flightless bird and became extinct just 500 years ago, after humans killed off its food source.
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