Largest Eagle Ever Known, Extinct!

Learn all about the Haast's Eagle and how it went extinct...

All About the Haast's Eagle

Scientific Name: Harpagornis moorei

Once living on the South Island of New Zealand, the Haast's Eagle was the largest ever known eagle to have existed in the world. The Haast's Eagle was first described by Julius von Haast, whom it was named after, from remains found in what used to be a marsh. Its species name, moorei, was named after the owner of the land where the bones were found. The Haast's Eagle is thought to be most closely related to the little eagle and the booted eagle. They are estimated to have diverged from it's relatives 700,000 to 1.8 million years ago.

The Haast's Eagle mostly preyed on small flightless birds, including its main prey, the moa, which were up to 15 times the eagle's own weight. It is estimated that the Haast's Eagle could attack at speeds up to 80 km/hr. It is believed that when the Haast's Eagle first arrived at the island, it evolved over time to be larger due to its predation on the large birds. The estimated population was 3,000-4,500 breeding pairs.

The Extinction of the Haast's Eagle

The Extinction of the Haast's Eagle

The extinction of the Haast's Eagle is believed to be mostly due to the extinction of its main food source, moa. Early settlers of New Zealand heavily hunted the large flightless birds of the island, including the moa. They eventually drove the moa to extinction. The extinction of the moa most greatly caused the extinction of the Haast's Eagle in around the year 1400. Humans were also known to hunt them for their bones to use for tools. Due to human burning of the South Island dry mosaic forests and shrublands may have caused loss of habitation and also contributed to their extinction. Obviously, if humans hadn't interfered and overhunted the inhabitants of the island such as the moa and the Haast's Eagle itself, they probably wouldn't have been driven to extinction.


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