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Harpagornis

The Harpagornis or Haast eagle was the largest bird of prey ever recorded. They weighed 10 to 14 kilograms (22 to 30 pounds) and attacked at speeds up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph). The harpagornis lived in New Zealand and hunted moas. They became extinct along with their prey.

Unlike the moa, the harpagornis may have been wiped out deliberately: a large, fast bird of prey that specialized in hunting large bipeds may have been perceived as a threat by the early Maori settlers of the islands. (The Maori arrived in New Zealand only 1000 years ago.)

In effect, all positions in the New Zealand animal ecology were occupied by birds. The moas filled a grazing niche occupied elsewhere by deer or cattle, and the harpagornis occupied the same niche as carnivorous hunters such as wolves, leopards or tigers. For this reason, they have sometimes been termed leopard eagles.



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