New Zealand Bird Gobbled Up Humans

40-pound extinct bird was the 'lion' of the skies
By Mat Probasco,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2009 2:22 AM CDT
The extinct Haast's eagle was definitely a predator which swooped down from the mountains in New Zealand to likely prey on flightless moa and humans, researchers have confirmed.   (AP Photo/The Canterbury Museum Paul Scofield)
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(Newser) – A 40-pound bird with a 10-foot-wide wingspan swooped from the sky at 134 mph to feed on large flightless birds and small humans, according to a Maori legend that scientists have now confirmed is likely true. Researchers re-examining bones of the Haast's eagle found that the bird was a hunter, with talons as big as tiger claws, not a scavenger as originally thought, reports the Independent.

Stories of a huge black and white bird with a red crest were passed from generation to generation orally until recorded by an early New Zealand governor. The bird, known as "Te Hokioi" for its cry, became extinct less than 500 years ago. It was "certainly capable of swooping down and taking a child," said Paul Scofield, a curator of the Canterbury Museum. "Haast's eagle wasn't just the equivalent of a giant predatory bird. It was the equivalent of a lion."