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New Zealand Conservation Trust
New Zealand Native Animals > New Zealand Eagle

New Zealand Eagle

Harpagornis moorei 


The New Zealand Eagle, also known as Haast’s Eagle (named after Julius von Haast who gave it its Latin name), is the largest bird of prey known to have ever existed. The skull measures about 150mm from the back of the head to the tip of the beak. It is estimated that females had a wingspan of up to 2.4 m and weighed about 14.5kg; males had wingspans of about 2.1m and weighed about 11.5kg. 

They had extremely strong legs with talons up to 75mm long. They are thought to have been a bush eagle as they have relatively short, broad wings. They probably waited on high branches for prey to pass by, then swept down between the trees at great speed (perhaps up to 80km/h) to strike. 

New Zealand Eagles are presumed to have preyed mainly on other birds, predominantly moa, and it is thought they may even have been able to kill adult giant moas. The eagle would have been the top predator and when the moa became extinct it probably suffered the same fate soon afterwards. 

Evidence exists that Eagles and humans may have co-existed, and it is reputed that early European explorer Charles Douglas shot the last pair whilst surveying in South Westland.

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