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In Māori mythology, the pouakai or poukai is a monstrous bird.[1] In some of these legends pouakai kill and eat humans. The myth may refer to the real but now extinct Haast's eagle: the largest known eagle species, which was able to kill adult moa weighing up to 230 kilograms (510 lb), and which had the capability to kill a small child.[2]

Haast's eagles, which only lived in the eastern and northwestern South Island of New Zealand, did not become extinct until around two hundred years after the arrival of Māori. Pouakai are depicted in early rock-shelter paintings in South Canterbury.[3] Large amounts of the eagle's lowland habitat had been destroyed by burning by A.D. 1350, and it was driven extinct by overhunting, both directly (Haast's eagle bones have been found in Māori archaeological sites) and indirectly: its main prey species, nine species of moa and other large birds such as adzebills, flightless ducks, and flightless geese, were hunted to extinction at the same time.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rodgers, Paul (14 September 2009). "Maori legend of man-eating bird is true". The Independent. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
  2. ^ Casey, Michael; Associated Press (14 September 2009). "Extinct New Zealand eagle may have eaten humans". ABC News.
  3. ^ a b Worthy, Trevor N. (2002). The Lost World of the Moa. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253340349.