NZPA: Giant eagle ruled New Zealand skies

A new study using medical technology – CT and CAT scans – has confirmed that the Haast eagle, which became extinct 500 years ago, was able to kill the giant moa and even small children.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“Scientists have known about the existence of Haast’s eagle since 1871 based on excavated bones, including bones carved by early Maori, but their behaviour was not entirely clear.

“Because of their large size – they weighed up to 18kg with wingspans up to 3m – some scientists believed they were scavengers rather than predators.

“Earlier research has indicated the eagle had enough strength in its talons to kill a moa weighing 180kg, attacking at up to 80kph, or even to attack a human child.

“The latest study throwing new light on this was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“Researchers Dr Paul Scofield, curator of vertebrates at the Canterbury Museum, and Professor Ken Ashwell of the University of New South Wales used computerised CT and CAT scans to reconstruct the size of the brain, eyes, ears and spinal cord of the Haast’s eagle.

“The eagles are thought to have struck their prey from the side, tearing into the pelvic flesh and gripping the bone with claws the size of a tiger’s paw, so that the moa could be killed by a single strike to the head or neck from the eagle’s other claw.”