Haast’s Eagle… the Man-Eating Monster
A rather wise chap once said ‘seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child.’ Here at the Proceedings we don’t advise such behaviour… for a start off they would be far too small. Though we would certainly encourage you to never grow up in the first place, and to look at this wonderful world with the shock and delight of a wee one. Of course one way that early man could be shocked, though rather less delighted, by the joys of this planet would be to have been torn limb from limb by a Haast’s eagle.
At about the same time as Columbus announced that he had found something interesting across the sea… completely oblivious to the great Viking Leif Ericsson wandering around the Americas five hundred years previously… and it already being full of people in the first blinking place. The Haast’s eagle was happily tucking into its own natives in New Zealand. Yes, quite… a man-eating eagle. The bugger would come screaming in at about fifty miles per hour, and though they were relatively light compared to a man it has been estimated the force with which they would hit you would be similar to being walloped by a large building brick dropped from the top of a tower block. Of course being hit by a large building brick dropped from the top of a tower block would in fact be a pleasant experience compared to being preyed upon by a Haast’s eagle. Building blocks dropping of tower blocks wouldn’t be hitting you with talons the size of a kitchen knife for starters, neither would they proceed to deliver a fatal blow with their other leg, before disembowelling you with its bugger off beak.
Thankfully humans weren’t its favourite grub, it was rather partial to the moa; a huge flightless bird. Obviously to take down huge flightless birds, and indeed the odd Polynesian chappy, the Haast’s eagle needed to be huge, which was handy because it was. It was about 40% bigger than the biggest eagles around today; the steller sea eagle and indeed the golden eagle. Though they didn’t appear much bigger, their wingspan being quite similar, just under three metres helping it to dart among the dense forests of New Zealand. It was this rather limited menu that was to be his downfall, as the Maori were also quite partial to the Moa and ate it out of extinction, other prey had evolved to rather sensibly stay well clear of enormous birds that could hit you with the ferocity of masonry hoiked off buildings. What’s more, being rather rowdy types, that man chap didn’t like being eaten by Haast’s eagles and… well… killed a few back. The Haast’s eagle went extinct sometime in the 15th Century.
Finally we’d like to take time out to give a quick remembrance to a dear friend of The Proceedings; Johann Franz Julius Haast. He did many splendid things in New Zealand, not least of which was his studies of the remains of an amazing eagle. He discovered all sorts about the islands he loved and lived in, and New Zealanders have named all sorts of things after him; rivers, towns, glaciers, rocks, passes, glaciers not to mention a rather big bird. Though perhaps a greater epitaph would be from his friend the eminent anthropologist John Macmillan Brown who put it rather delightfully “he was a boy in heart until the day he died”.