Badass of the Week.

Haast's Eagle

Haast's Eagle is a brain-aneurysm inducing species of gigantic man-eating winged monstrosities that became notorious among the Maori tribes of pre-colonial New Zealand thanks to their horrific propensity to silently dive-bomb down from the tree tops in absolute silence, crush the skulls of 450-pound beasts like a Volkswagen driving over a soda can, then fly off into the darkness clutching the tribe's women and children in a fist full of razor-sharp 4-inch talons so they could be slowly and painfully shredded to death at the beast's leisure.

This is not a myth or a legend. This is a real thing that actually lived on Earth-One's material plane as late as 1600 AD.

Known as the "Tiger of the Skies", Haast's Eagles are one of the only birds to ever be the apex predator of an ecosystem, a distinction they hold mostly because there are no predatory mammals on New Zealand, but also because what the fuck is going to step to a pissed-as-hell mega-raptor so ungodly gigantulous that it's wings blacken the sky and its insanity-causing shrieks presumably caused deafness and incontinence in anything unlucky enough to hear it. Gigantic, feather-covered instruments of God's Unadulterated Fury, Haast's Eagles stood six feet tall, weighed a little over 35 pounds, and had a wingspan of roughly ten feet. These goddamned things were, no exaggeration, the size of hang gliders, tore ass through the densest jungles of New Zealand with the dexterity of a howler monkey, and boasted black, pointy, fuck-off claws that were about the same size as a modern-day Bengal tiger's.

Here's a picture of a Haast's Eagle fucking with a couple Moa birds:

Doesn't look like much? Not impressed by an ordinary-looking eagle being a total dick and harassing a pair of stupidly-hilarious looking no-armed wingless asshole birds spastically running around like dumbasses squawking in what scientists largely agree probably sounded like the genetic reject of a failed goose-emu cross-breeding experiment run through Lil' Wayne's auto-tuner?

I don't blame you. But you should be. Because here's a size comparison between those birds and you and me:

Those flightless idiots in that pic up there are Moa – a species of tragically-stupid, doomed flightless ostrich-like bird-creatures that stood nine feet tall and weight 450 pounds, which is about the same as a Siberian Tiger or a North American Black Bear. The Moa were about 15 times the Haast's Eagle's mass, yet this thing could dive-bomb them with enough force to crush their skulls and/or pelvises and/or dicks, and once those poor dumb bastards were immobilized, crippled, and/or de-balled the Haast's Eagle's 1,000 psi of talon crushing might was powerful enough to snap their bones in half.

And if it could do that to a creature the size of the Cyclops, it could sure as hell do it to a human. And it did. A lot, actually, if the folk stories and modern science are right.

Here's a scale model of a Haast's Eagle next to some artists or some shit who would almost certainly be rendered instantaneously dead by face-beaking if this were an actual specimen that came alive like Kim Cattrall in that movie with the mannequins:

In Soviet Russia, Thanksgiving bird eat YOU!

Haast's Eagles were forest-dwelling eagles rather than soaring eagles, which means they relied on strong leg muscles, ridiculous vertical leaping ability, and were much more about flapping their wings around like rampaging flap-happy madmen than just coasting and gliding like a bunch of lazy assholes. They had crazy good eyesight, were ridiculously good at barrel-rolling through even the densest foliage, and had one of the most goddamned fucking terrifying methods of catching their prey this side of Air Jaws.

Basically, it worked like this. A Haast's Eagle would fly up to a branch near the top of a particularly tall tree, then sit there in complete silence, scanning the horizon with it's ultra-sharp eagle eyes (see what I did there) like a badass super-sniper assassin waiting patiently for his next kill. Then, once some moron was stupid enough to wander aimlessly into the Haast's Eagle's killzone, this thing would FREAK THE FUCK OUT, silently let go of the branch and kick in the afterburners all the way to the danger zone until it looked like the cover of Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance album cover. Then, before the idiot Moa or human or whatever it was hunting even heard a single noise, the Haast's Eagle would fucking PLOW into them at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour.

For reference, here's a picture of a Volvo making out with a concrete wall at 60 miles an hour:

This was kind of like that, only completely silent and instead of a windshield you were being hit with two fists full of 4-inch talons the size of paring knives. The blow would crush the skull, spine, pelvis, or legs of the prey, then the Haast's Eagle would finish the job either by disemboweling you with its talons and beak or by snapping your bones with it's kung fu grip. We don't know exactly how mighty the grip strength on a Haast's Eagle was, but we do know that Bald Eagles – which are a little less than half the size of a Haast's Eagle – grip with 350 psi in their talons. For reference, the average human male's maximum grip strength is 100 psi, and the bite of a German Shepherd is measured at 250 psi. So… yeah.

We believe that Haast's Eagles primarily ate Moa, as well as other birds, small mammals, and human children, but other forest eagles, like South America's Harpy eagle, have been known eat porcupines, snakes, kinkajous, anteaters, parrots, and something called a titi monkey which honestly sounds like it should be the name of a wet t-shirt bar on Cabo San Lucas. While this is cool and all, it also bears mentioning that one of the craziest fucking birds on earth, the Golden Eagle, eats goddamned mountain goats, killing them by picking them up in its claws, carrying them over to a cliff, dropping them to their deaths, and then flying down and eating the corpse.

Mountain goats. If you don't believe me, here's a video of it happening. Oh, and here's a video of them killing foxes and wolves.

Once again, since I feel like the scale is something that needs to repeated indefinitely, here's a Golden Eagle:

And here are its claws:

The Haast's Eagle was 40% bigger than the Golden Eagle. And it actually attacked and ate people. I feel like I cannot italicize or bold or caps this article enough, because the mortal set of HTML font tags and punctuation cannot handle how FUCKING NUTS THIS SHIT IS.

Here's an eagle carrying off a fox. Shit is terrifying.

Haast's Eagles are named after the guy who invented them, Herr Doktor Johann Franz Julius "Du Hast" von Haast, a German University of Bonn graduate (a "boner" if you will) and Rammstein aficionado who accidentally discovered the bones of these monstrous avian killing machines while looking for glaciers in a swamp somewhere in New Zealand in the year 1872. Haast, after exclaiming "Holy Jesus shit what the fuck?!?!?!" eventually decided that these Sci-Fi Original Movie-grade air-to-ground cruise missiles of pointy horribleness were the result of something called Island Gigantism, which is a really awesome way of saying that creatures with no natural predators tend to continue killing and eating everything in their paths until they become oversized living nightmares manifest into reality. Haast, for the record, also speculated that while the creatures themselves grew way the fuck bigger their brains stayed small and bird-sized, a fact that in a lot of way actually makes them more terrifying. Whatever the cause, most scientists are fairly certain that the Haast's Eagle was such a ridiculous predator that over the course of two million years or so many other bird species evolved to develop camouflaged plumage just to escape it, and when they weren't eating human children (a fact that has been confirmed through the use of genetic testing by modern-day scientists), Haast's Eagles roamed thousands of miles of the New Zealand countryside looking for girlfriends or prey and not giving a fuck about anything else because they had no natural enemies aside from a guy armed with a spear.

When the Maori first settled New Zealand, they developed legends and myths about these ridiculous beasts that swooped down from the sky and either maimed or carried off their women, children, and elderly. They called it either Te Hokioi or Te Pouakai, some sects worshipped them as bird gods, and most people believed that they lived in the mountains and were the ancestor of kites (and if your mind went to small RPG dragons when you read "kites" you are a nerd... I mean like actual kites that you fly with your family on the weekends). Most of their legends are similar to Western "giant killer bird" stories like the Roc, the Thunderbird, and Prometheus (the Greek Titan who gets disemboweled every single day by a giant eagle, not the terrible sci-fi movie. And yes that movie was fucking terrible and I hated it and I will hear no discussion on the subject from anyone), so at first the Europeans just chalked the child-eating bird stories up to myth and folklore. Then they stared into the beak of insanity.

New Zealand, circa 1400

While the Haast's Eagles lived for over 2 million years, they eventually died out in 1500 or 1600 AD, largely because psycho badass Maori headhunters killed all the Moa birds, stabbed or shot all the Eagles, and cut down all their trees. When Europeans first landed on New Zealand, they thought this whole "man eating bird" thing was bullshit, but then Julius von Haast showed them that no, holy shit, this is a real thing.

Now, as I've done previously with similarly-terrifying gigantic Paleolithic monstrosities like T-Rex and Megalodon, here's a badass series of fucking over-the-top awesome pictures I couldn't fit in anywhere else in this story. Happy Thanksgiving, here's a bird that can devour you in two bites:


NZ Birds of Prey


Kiwi Conservation Club

Ever So Strange



Hart, Donna L. and Robert W. Sussman. Man the Hunted. Basic, 2005.

Hume, Julian C. and Michael Walters. Extinct Birds. A&C Black, 2012.

Worthy, T.H. and Richard N. Holdaway. The Lost World of the Moa. Indiana Univ. Press, 2002.


The Complete List

About the Author

Miscellaneous Articles