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Giant Parrot 'Squawkzilla' Is a First-of-Its-Kind Find

Extinct bird was more than half the height of an average human
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2019 9:55 AM CDT
An illustration of Heracles inexpectatus.   (Flinders University/Brian Choo)

(Newser) – Researchers believe they've found the largest known parrot to ever inhabit our planet, and it just happens to be about twice the size of the parrot it now dethrones. While the critically endangered kakapo of New Zealand can weigh close to 8 pounds, Heracles inexpectatus weighed an estimated 15.5 pounds and, at an estimated 39 inches tall, would've been able to pick "lint out of your belly button" as it wandered New Zealand more than 19 million years ago, researcher Michael Archer tells National Geographic. The findings come as a result of leg bones discovered in fossil deposits from the early Miocene epoch, described in a study in the journal Biology Letters. "Until now, no one has ever found an extinct giant parrot" and "there are no other giant parrots in the world," researcher Trevor Worthy says, per the BBC. "Finding one is very significant."

It was also a surprise, per AFP, hence the bird's name, which also comes from the massive Greek demigod Heracles—or Hercules, to the ancient Romans. Researchers suspected the bones came from an eagle or duck when they were discovered in 2008. It was more than a decade before one of Worthy's students stumbled on them by chance, leading to a fresh examination. With no predators to fear in a forest full of parrots, pigeons, and eagles, Heracles inexpectatus—roughly the size of the extinct dodo pigeon—likely wasn't aggressive. Archer has a nickname for the "potential horror": "Squawkzilla." Though it probably couldn't fly, it made do with a "massive parrot beak that could crack wide open anything it fancied," he adds. And he means anything: In addition to nuts, fruits, and seeds, the parrot ate "perhaps even other parrots," Archer says. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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