Or at least a very, very big, mythical bird… that turned out to be real:
“It was certainly capable of swooping down and taking a child,” said Paul Scofield, the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Canterbury Museum. “They had the ability to not only strike with their talons but to close the talons and put them through quite solid objects such as a pelvis. It was designed as a killing machine.”
New Zealand has no native land mammals because it became isolated from other continents in the Cretaceous, more than 65 million years ago. As a result, birds filled niches usually populated by large mammals such as deer and cattle. “Haast’s eagle wasn’t just the equivalent of a giant predatory bird,” said Dr Scofield. “It was the equivalent of a lion.” The eagle is thought to have died out after the arrival, 1,000 years ago, of humans, who exterminated the giant moa. The latest study shows it was a recent immigrant to the islands, related to the little eagle (Aquila morphnoides) an Australian bird weighing less than 1kg.
There’s a picture of a Haast’s eagle skull at the link. It’s big.