The baby snatching antics of New Zealand’s now extinct Haas Eagle have been passed down by Maori elders for hundreds of years.
New research has revealed that the legendary behavior of the “man-eating” giant eagle may in fact be accurate.
The Haast Eagle’s existence has been known for over a century with excavated bones demonstrating the birds weighed up to 40 lbs. Most scientists presumed they were scavengers rather than the predators from mythology.
But a new study has revealed the eagle as a fearsome predator that may have preyed on flightless birds and perhaps even children.
Researchers at the Canterburry Museum in New Zealand and the University of New South Wales in Australia used CT and CAT scans to reconstruct the size of the bird’s brain, eyes, ears, and spinal cord.
When compared with the data from modern predatory and scavenging birds the findings suggest that the behavior of the giant eagles would likely match their behavior described in the Maori legends.
Professor Scofield said the findings are similar to what he found in Maori folk tales.
‘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,’ he said.
Te Hokioi had a wingspan of nearly ten feet (3 meters) and weighed 40lbs (18kg). It fed mainly on moa, birds which were incapable of flying, and weighed as much as 550lbs (250kg). Humans hunted the moa to extinction after their arrival in New Zealand around 1,000 years ago, effectively killing Te Hokioi at the same time.