Just How Big Was The Haast’S Eagle Compared To Humans?

The Haast’s eagle is an extinct species of massive bird of prey that once swooped through the skies of New Zealand. Known for hunting large flightless moa birds, the size and power of these raptors continue to astound researchers today.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Haast’s eagle was truly enormous, with females estimated to stand up to 1.4 m (4.6 ft) tall and weigh 10-15 kg (22-33 lbs). This makes them comparable in height to many adult humans and significantly heavier.

In this article, we will explore just how gigantic the Haast’s eagle was in comparison to average-sized humans. We’ll look at size estimates, weight, wingspan, talon size, and how humans today might perceive these birds if they still soared overhead.

Height and Weight Relative to Humans

When it comes to the Haast’s Eagle, its sheer size is truly awe-inspiring. To understand just how big these magnificent birds were, it helps to compare their height and weight to that of humans.


The Haast’s Eagle stood at an impressive height of around 3.5 feet (1.1 meters) tall. To put this into perspective, imagine a bird that is as tall as an average 7-year-old child! It’s important to note that this measurement is from the ground to the top of the eagle’s head, not including its outstretched wingspan, which was even more remarkable.


The Haast’s Eagle was a heavyweight in the bird world, weighing in at an estimated 30 to 40 pounds (14 to 18 kilograms). This means that these eagles were heavier than many dog breeds, and even some small children!

Their large size and muscular build allowed them to take down prey that was much larger than themselves, making them formidable hunters.

Comparison to Humans

When comparing the height and weight of the Haast’s Eagle to humans, it’s clear that these birds were truly massive. In terms of height, they could tower over most people, and their weight would make them almost impossible to lift for the average person.

It’s a humbling thought to imagine encountering one of these giant eagles in the wild.

The closest modern-day equivalent to the Haast’s Eagle in terms of size is the Steller’s Sea Eagle, which has a similar wingspan, but is slightly shorter in height. However, even the Steller’s Sea Eagle pales in comparison to the sheer size and power of the extinct Haast’s Eagle.

To learn more about the incredible Haast’s Eagle and its impact on the ecosystem, check out Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. It provides a wealth of information on this fascinating species and its role in New Zealand’s natural history.

Wingspan Comparisons

When it comes to wingspan, the Haast’s Eagle was truly a remarkable creature. With wingspans reaching up to 2.6 meters (8.5 feet), these eagles were one of the largest known species of eagles to have ever existed.

To put this into perspective, let’s compare the Haast’s Eagle’s wingspan to that of a human.

Haast’s Eagle vs. Average Human Wingspan

The average human wingspan is about 1.8 meters (5.9 feet). Now, imagine standing next to a Haast’s Eagle with its wings fully extended. It would be an awe-inspiring sight to see those massive wings stretching over twice the length of an average human’s wingspan.

It’s no wonder that these eagles were able to dominate their environment and prey on large animals.

Haast’s Eagle vs. Largest Human Wingspan

While the average human wingspan is significantly smaller than that of the Haast’s Eagle, it’s important to note that there have been individuals with larger wingspans. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest recorded human wingspan belongs to Robert Wadlow, who had a wingspan of 2.88 meters (9 feet 5.5 inches).

Even with this impressive wingspan, Wadlow’s wingspan still falls short compared to that of the Haast’s Eagle.

Comparing Wingspan Ratios

To better understand the difference in wingspan between the Haast’s Eagle and humans, let’s compare their wingspan ratios. The Haast’s Eagle had a wingspan that was approximately 1.44 times larger than the average human wingspan.

In comparison to Robert Wadlow, the Haast’s Eagle had a wingspan that was about 0.9 times smaller.

Formidable Talons

When it comes to discussing the Haast’s Eagle, one characteristic that immediately comes to mind is its formidable talons. These enormous raptors possessed talons that were truly awe-inspiring. Measuring up to 15 centimeters in length, their talons were the largest of any known eagle species.

To put that into perspective, that’s roughly the size of a grizzly bear’s claw! These talons were not only long but also incredibly strong, capable of exerting a force that could easily crush the bones of their prey.

Their Hunting Strategy

The Haast’s Eagle primarily hunted large flightless birds, such as the moa, which were prominent in New Zealand during the time these eagles existed. The talons of the Haast’s Eagle were perfectly adapted for taking down such formidable prey.

With their sharp, curved claws, they would swoop down from the skies and latch onto the backs of their victims, using their impressive strength to immobilize them. Once the prey was subdued, the eagle would use its powerful beak to deliver a fatal blow to the neck or skull, swiftly ending the hunt.

A Comparison to Humans

When comparing the talons of the Haast’s Eagle to humans, it becomes clear just how massive these raptors truly were. Imagine standing face to face with a bird whose talons are as long as your hand! It’s a truly awe-inspiring thought.

The strength and size of the Haast’s Eagle’s talons would have been a formidable sight for anyone who encountered them. It’s no wonder these birds were considered apex predators in their environment.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Haast’s Eagle or other fascinating bird species, be sure to check out the Audubon Society or the BirdLife International websites. They provide a wealth of information on birds from around the world, including extinct species like the Haast’s Eagle.

Visualizing the Haast’s Eagle Today

The Haast’s Eagle, also known as Harpagornis moorei, was a massive bird of prey that once roamed the skies of New Zealand. It is considered to be one of the largest and most powerful eagles that ever existed.

While it is now extinct, its impressive size continues to fascinate scientists and the general public alike.

Size and Comparison

The Haast’s Eagle had a wingspan that could reach up to an astonishing 3 meters (10 feet), making it larger than any other known eagle species. To put this into perspective, the average wingspan of a Bald Eagle, one of the largest eagle species alive today, is around 2.3 meters (7.5 feet).

This means that the Haast’s Eagle was significantly larger and more formidable in size.

When it comes to height, the Haast’s Eagle stood about 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall at the shoulder. This would have made it roughly the same height as an average adult human. However, its size and weight were much more impressive.

It is estimated that the Haast’s Eagle weighed between 10 to 15 kilograms (22 to 33 pounds), while the average weight of an adult human is around 70 kilograms (154 pounds). In terms of sheer mass, the Haast’s Eagle was truly a giant.

Feeding Habits

The Haast’s Eagle was a predator that primarily hunted large flightless birds known as moa, which were also native to New Zealand. The moa could reach heights of up to 3.6 meters (12 feet) and weigh over 200 kilograms (440 pounds).

The Haast’s Eagle was perfectly adapted to take down these massive prey with its sharp talons and powerful beak.

To visualize just how impressive the Haast’s Eagle was, imagine a bird that could effortlessly swoop down from the sky, grab a moa weighing over 200 kilograms (440 pounds), and fly away with it in its talons.

It is truly a remarkable image that showcases the incredible strength and size of this ancient predator.


The Haast’s Eagle became extinct around 600 years ago, most likely due to a combination of factors including overhunting of its primary prey, the moa, and the arrival of humans in New Zealand. The extinction of such a magnificent creature is a loss to the natural world, but its legacy lives on in our fascination with its size and power.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Haast’s Eagle, you can visit the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, which provides detailed information about this impressive bird and its place in New Zealand’s natural history.

Ecosystem Role and Extinction

The Haast’s Eagle, also known as Harpagornis moorei, was a massive bird of prey that once inhabited the South Island of New Zealand. It had a wingspan of up to 3 meters and weighed around 15 kilograms, making it one of the largest known eagles to have ever existed.

This formidable predator played a crucial role in the ecosystem, preying on large flightless birds such as moa.

The extinction of the Haast’s Eagle is believed to have occurred around 600 years ago, shortly after the arrival of humans in New Zealand. The loss of its primary food source, the moa, is considered to be a significant factor contributing to its extinction.

The Haast’s Eagle was highly specialized in hunting these large birds, and with their disappearance, it faced a significant decline in population.

Impact on Prey Population

The Haast’s Eagle’s immense size and strength allowed it to take down prey that no other bird of prey could. The moa, which were flightless and weighed up to 250 kilograms, were the primary target of the Haast’s Eagle.

They would swoop down from the sky, using their powerful talons to grab and kill the moa. This unique hunting behavior made the Haast’s Eagle a top predator in its ecosystem.

With the extinction of the Haast’s Eagle, the moa population faced a sudden release from predation pressure. This, coupled with human hunting, led to a rapid decline in moa numbers, ultimately resulting in their extinction as well.

The loss of both species had a significant impact on the ecosystem, causing a disruption in the natural predator-prey balance.

Human Influence on Extinction

While the loss of its primary food source played a crucial role in the extinction of the Haast’s Eagle, human activities also played a significant role. The arrival of humans in New Zealand brought about major changes in the environment, including habitat destruction and the introduction of new predators such as rats and dogs.

Humans hunted the moa for their meat and feathers, which further contributed to their decline. As the moa population dwindled, so did the Haast’s Eagle’s food source. The loss of this apex predator had a cascading effect on the ecosystem, influencing the abundance and distribution of other species.

Lessons from Extinction

The extinction of the Haast’s Eagle serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of species to human activities and the importance of preserving biodiversity. It highlights the interconnectedness of species within an ecosystem and the potential consequences of disrupting this delicate balance.

Understanding the ecological role of extinct species and the factors that led to their demise can provide valuable insights for conservation efforts today. By learning from past mistakes, we can strive to protect and preserve the remaining biodiversity on our planet, ensuring a sustainable future for both humans and wildlife.


With females potentially reaching 1.4 m and over 10 kg, the Haast’s eagle was an avian giant that would have dwarfed humans in size and strength. Its massive talons and wingspan cast a shadow over moa prey and shaped the ecosystem.

Though now extinct, imagining this feathers goliath soaring overhead helps capture the awe these birds must have inspired.

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