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Haast’s Eagle

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch - Joy of Museums - Haast's Eagle

This Haast’s Eagle (Harpagornis moorei) skull is of an extinct species of eagle that once lived in the South Island of New Zealand. It is thought to be the Pouakai of Maori legend. In Māori mythology, the pouakai or poukai is a large monstrous bird. In these legends pouakai kill and eat humans. The myth is now thought to refer to the real but now extinct Haast’s eagle.

This Haast’s Eagle was the largest eagle known to have existed and which had the capability to possibly kill humans. Its massive size is explained as an evolutionary response to the size of its prey, the large flightless Moa.

Giant Haasts eagle attacking New Zealand moa

Giant Haast’s eagle attacking New Zealand Moa

Haast’s eagle became extinct around 1400, after the Moa were hunted to extinction by the first Māori. This probably took place  around one hundred years after the arrival of the Māori, and the Moa become extinct due to overhunting by the Māori, and loss of natural habitat.

Essential Facts:

  • Exhibit:                   Haast’s Eagle (Harpagornis moorei)
  • Date:                        1500
  • Origin:                     New Zealand
  • Museum:                 Canterbury Museum, Christchurch

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“As man disappears from sight, the land remains.” Maori Proverb

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Photo Credit:By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By John Megahan [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons