Haast's eagle

Hieraaetus moorei

Haast's eagle, also called the pouakai or hokioi by the Māori was a species of eagle native to South Island in New Zealand. It was one of the largest ever raptors and was the largest to ever coexist with (and prey on) humans. The Haast's eagle could reach 40 pounds in weight with a 10 ft wingspan, which made them larger than even the Andean condor. The Haast's eagle's large size made them the only natural predator to moas, which were also their only source of food. So when moas were hunted to extinction, they too died out, probably sometime in the 15th or 16th centuries. Some cryptozoologists theorize they may have survived in small numbers into the 19th century. 

Joseph Banks, a naturalist who worked for the infamous explorer Captain Cook, wrote about an enormous brown coloured bird with strange kite-like tail feathers on an island called “Jubolai”. The bird’s wingspan was several yards in length. In the 1860’s, New Zealand governor George Grey was told by Māori that pouakai still existed, and described it as a large, aggressive black and white raptor with a red crest and yellow wing-tips. New Zealand explorer Charlie Douglas claimed in his 1899 monograph, Birds of New Zealand, that he shot and ate two massive raptors some time in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s. There are similar giant eagle-like cryptids in nearby Fiji, where they’re called nagni-vatu as well as New Guinea, where they’re called badamanu, though it is unclear if they were inspired by Haast's eagles or were independently created.

Illustration by Colin Edgerly