Haast's Eagle
(Harpagornis moorei)


A giant eagle; this bird of prey lived during the Pleistocene in South Island, the Southern part of New Zealand. With a weight of 20 kilos and a wingspan of 2.6 meters (8 or 9 feet) it is the largest eagle ever.
By the time Harpagornis lived South Island was coverd with forests, and so the bird developed short, broad wings to manoeuvre its large body between the trees and branches. It did'nt sail by air such as vultures, but flew actively through the forest. Even larger than Haast's Eagle himself was its prey. Harpagornis' main preys were the moa's, the giant flightless birds of New Zealand. The largest moa's weighed up to 200 kilos, but they were because of their slowness, small head and long neck vulnerably for an attack from the air. Skeletons of moa's show claw impressions on the back and basin. Harpagornis talons were as large as tigers claws, and they were probably aimed at the neck of the moa. The claws penetrated feathers, skin and bone, and even when the attack did not have the aimed result, then Harpagornis could escape up in the sky and attempt a second venture.
The reason why Harpagornis hunted on such large preys is because it was the largest carnivore in the area. Contemporary birds of prey only hunt on preys small enough for the bird to lift in a tree, they have to be able to fly while carrying their kill. In South Island however the largest carnivore but the birds was the tuatara, which weighed at the most 1 kilo and generally less. Harpagornis was in South Island the toppredator, and could do whatever he wanted.