Aquila moorei Haast, 1872

Haast's eagle, New Zealand eagle, Te Hōkioi (cryptid), Hokioi (cryptid)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Hieraaetus moorei Haast, 1872; Harpagornis moorei Haast, 1872; Haliaeetus moorei Haast, 1872; Harpagornis assimilis Haast, 1874:62


Treated under Aquila per (Seersholm et al., 2018).


Conservation Status


Last record: after 1300 AD


Holdaway (2021) briefly discussed the remote possibility that the species survived into the 19th century.



South Island, New Zealand


Biology & Ecology

Haast's eagle is the largest known eagle to ever live. With a wingspan of 2.6-3m and a weight of up to 15kg in females, it was considerably larger than the Harpy eagle, the largest living eagle. It is believed to have preyed upon Moas.






Above: Haast's Eagle. Harpagornis moorei. From the series: Extinct Birds of New Zealand., 2005, Masterton, by Paul Martinson. Purchased 2006. © Te Papa. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (2006-0010-1/37)



Original scientific description:

Haast, J. (1872). Notes on Harpagornis moorei, an extinct gigantic bird of prey, containing descriptions of femur, ungual phalanges and rib. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 4: 192-196.


Other references:

Best, E. (1982). Maori Religion and Mythology. Part 2. P.D. Hasselberg, Wellington. pg. 563.

Brathwaite, D. H. (1992). Notes on the weight, flying ability, habitat, and prey of Haast's Eagle (Harpagornis moorei). Notornis 39 (4): 239-247.

Braithwaite, D. H. and R.N. Holdaway. (1987). A preliminary reconstruction of Harpagornis moorei: Top predator in the moa’s world. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 10: 162.

Brodkorb, Pierce. (1964). Catalogue of fossil birds. Part 2 (Anseriformes through Galliformes). Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences 8: 195-335.

Bunce, Michael et al. (2005). Ancient DNA Provides New Insights into the Evolutionary History of New Zealand's Extinct Giant Eagle. PLoS Biol. 3(1): e9.

Bunce, Michael and Holdaway, Richard N. (2006). New Zealand 's extinct giant eagle. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 126A: 4-6.

Dawson, Elliot W. (1949). Sub-fossil remains from Lake Grassmere. Notornis 3(5): 132-133.

Duff, R. S. (1949). Pyramid Valley. Christchurch: Pegasus Press.

Forbes, H. O. (1892). Preliminary notice of additions to the extinct avifauna of New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 24: 185-189.

Gill, B.; Martinson, P. 1991. New Zealand's extinct birds. Auckland, Random Century.

Grey, G. (1873). Description of the extinct gigantic bird of prey, Hokioi, by a Maori. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 5:435.

Haast, J. (1874). On Harpagornis, an extinct genus of gigantic raptorial birds of New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 6: 62-75.

Haast, J. (1881). On Harpagornis, an extinct genus of gigantic raptorial birds of New Zealand third paper. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 13: 232-234.

van Heteren, A. H. et al. (2021). New Zealand’s extinct giant raptor (Hieraaetus moorei) killed like an eagle, ate like a condor. Proc. R. Soc. B 288: 20211913.

Holdaway, Richard N. (1990). Harpagornis assimilis Haast, 1874, a synonym of Harpagornis moorei Haast, 1872 (Aves: Accipitridae). New Zealand Natural Sciences 17: 39-47.

Holdaway, Richard N. (1991). Systematics and Palaeobiology of Haast’s Eagle Harpagornis moorei Haast 1872. Ph.D thesis Christchurch: University of Canterbury. 472 pp.

Holdaway, Richard N. (2021). Two new radiocarbon ages for Haast’s eagle (Hieraaetus moorei) (Aves: Accipitridae) and comments on the eagle’s past distribution and possible survival into the 19th century. Notornis  68: 278-282.

Holdaway, Richard N., Worthy, Trevor H. and Tennyson, Alan J. D. (2001). A working list of breeding bird species of the New Zealand region at first human contact. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 28: 119-187.

Michael Knapp, Jessica E. Thomas, James Haile, Stefan Prost, Simon Y.W. Ho, Nicolas Dussex, Sophia Cameron-Christie, Olga Kardailsky, Ross Barnett, Michael Bunce, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, R. Paul Scofield. (2019). Mitogenomic evidence of close relationships between New Zealand’s extinct giant raptors and small-sized Australian sister-taxa, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. [Abstract]

Lerner, Heather R. L. et al. (2017). Phylogeny and new taxonomy of the Booted Eagles (Accipitriformes: Aquilinae). Zootaxa 4216(4): 301-320.

Lerner, Heather R. L. and Mindell, D. P. (2005). Phylogeny of eagles, Old World vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37(2): 327–346.

Millener, P. R. (1981). The Quaternary avifauna of the North Island, New Zealand. Unpublished PhD thesis. Department of Geology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. 897 pp.

Oliver, W. R. B. (1930). New Zealand Birds. Wellington: Fine Arts. 541 pp.

Oliver, W. R. B. (1945). Avian evolution in New Zealand and Australia. Emu 45:  55-77, 119-152.

Oliver, W. R. B. (1955). New Zealand Birds. 2nd ed. Wellington: Reed, 661pp.

Owen, R. (1879). Memoir on Bones of the Trunk and Limbs of a Gigantic Bird of Prey (Harpagornis moorei, von Haast); in Owen R, (ed.), Memoirs on the Extinct Wingless Birds of New Zealand, with an Appendix on those of England, Australia, Newfoundland, Mauritius, and Rodriguez. Vol 1, pp. 141–150. London: John van Voorst.

Robertson, H. A., Baird, K. A., Elliott, G. P., Hitchmough, R. A., McArthur, N. J., Makan, T. D., Miskelly, Colin M., O’Donnell, C. F. J., Sagar, P. M., Scofield, R. P., Taylor, G. A. and Michel, P. (2021). Conservation status of birds in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 36. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 43 pp.

Hugh Robertson, John Dowding, Graeme Elliott, Rod Hitchmough, Colin Miskelly, Colin O’Donnell, Ralph Powlesland, Paul Sagar, Paul Scofield, Graeme Taylor. (2013). Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2012. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 4. 22 pp.

Scofield, R. Paul and Ashwell, Ken W. S. (2009). Rapid somatic expansion causes the brain to lag behind: the brain and behavior of New Zealand's Haast's Eagle (Harpagornis moorei). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29(3): 637-649. [automatic download]

Seersholm, Frederik V. et al. (2018). Subsistence practices, past biodiversity, and anthropogenic impacts revealed by New Zealand-wide ancient DNA survey. PNAS. [Supplementary information]

Shufeldt, R. W. (1896). On the affinities of Harpagornis:  a letter to Professor T. Jeffery Parker. Trans. Proc. NZ Inst. 28: 665.

Szabo, M. J. 2005. Hobbit-sized raptor became 'Lord of the Wings'. Forest & Bird, May 2005, Issue 316: 12.

Szabo, M. J. 2006. Extinct birds of New Zealand: a preview. Forest & Bird, November 2006, Issue 322: 22-24.

Szabo, M.J. 2013. Haast's eagle. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online.

Tennyson, A.J.D. 2010. Accipitriformes. Pp. 169-173. In: Checklist Committee (OSNZ) 2010. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica (4th ed.). Wellington, Ornithological Society of New Zealand & Te Papa Press.

Tennyson, A. and Martinson, P. (2006). Extinct Birds of New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Te Papa Press.

Williams, G. R. (1962). Extinction and the land and freshwater-inhabiting birds of New Zealand. Notornis 10(1): 15-32.

Worthy, Trevor H. (1993). Fossils of Honeycomb Hill. Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington. 56 pp.

Worthy, Trevor H. (1997). Fossil deposits in the Hodges Creek Cave System, on the northern foothills of Mt Arthur, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand. Notornis 44(2): 111-124.

Worthy, Trevor H. (1999). What was on the menu - avian extinction in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 19: 125-160.

Worthy, Trevor H. (2000). Two late-Glacial avifaunas from eastern North Island, New Zealand – Te Aute and Wheturau Quarry. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 30(1): 1-26.

Worthy, T. H. and Holdaway, R. N. (1994). Quaternary fossil faunas from caves in Takaka Valley and on Takaka Hill, northwest Nelson, South Island, New Zealand. Journal of The Royal Society of New Zealand 24(3): 297-391.

Worthy, Trevor H. and Holdaway, Richard N. (2002). The Lost World of the Moa: Prehistoric Life in New Zealand. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press / Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press.

Worthy, Trevor H. and Zhao, J. X. (2006). A late Pleistocene predator-accumulated avifauna from Kids Cave, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand. Alcheringa Special Issue 1: 389-408.

Wragg, Graham M. (1981). The birds of Canterbury: history and present status. A dissertation presented as a requirement for the Diploma in Parks and Recreation (National Parks option). Lincoln College, New Zealand.


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