Imagine. You’re walking along the top of a grassy hill carrying a flax basket full of food you’ve foraged, and you’re headed for the cover of the woods ahead. Suddenly you hear a blood curdling screech in the air, like a ring-wraith.
A massive shadow rushes over your body and across the grass in front of you like a plane coming in for landing. You spin around and duck instinctively to see a 10-foot-wide wing span diving down toward you from behind, claws outstretched big enough to grab your entire head.
It was not that long ago that there was a giant eagle living in New Zealand that did indeed feed on people. It is the legendary Haast eagle. It was hunted (or killed for protection) to extinction possibly around 600 years ago.
The Haast eagle, was a predator that only really began hunting humans after the Maori people had hunted it’s main prey to extinction… another giant bird, the flightless Moa, the tallest bird ever known.
Just to give you an idea of the massive size of these beasty birds, see the height of the moa below next to the proud scientist, Sir Richard Owen.
The Haast eagle’s claws were the size of tiger’s claws.
It sounds like straight out of Lord of the Rings, but it was a real bird that soared above the mountains and plains of New Zealand recently, relatively speaking. Just another reason why NZ was the perfect setting for Peter Jackson to film the epic Middle Earth stories.
This link takes you to the BBC website, where you can watch the BBC episode about the Haast eagle, in Monsters We Met, it’s better quality than the YouTube video.