Ancient giant parrot discovered in New Zealand

Graphic showing the Heracles inexpectatus silhouette next to an average height woman and common magpie

Meet Heracles inexpectatus, now believed to be the largest parrot to have ever existed.

The weight of a parrot reached seven pounds. At about 3 feet, the massive bird would likely have stood almost as tall as the average American 4-year-old. "Finding one is very significant".

At an estimated 15 pounds, the extinct was almost double the weight of the endangered Kakapo, the largest living parrot. To find out what kind it was, the two bones - from the so-called "drumsticks" of the bird - were compared with dozens of other bones.

The fossils had been dug up in 2008 in St Bathans, New Zealand, the place many 1000's of hen bones have been discovered.

"Heracles and the diversity of parrots and pigeons was likely lost about 13 to 12 million years ago", Worthy said, "when there was an abrupt climate cooling of about 8 degrees Celsius and most of the warmth-loving plants and hence most of the berry and fruiting trees were lost".

"It was utterly surprising and fairly novel", Worthy, the research's lead creator, informed Nationwide Geographic.

Research suggests the parrot survived mostly on what was then lush, tropical vegetation that covered the region during the Miocene era.

A new study has revealed that a parrot that traveled New Zealand about 19 million years ago had a height of 1m (3ft 3in) which is considered as more than half the average height of a human being, BBC reported. However which may not have been sufficient to satiate the enormous parrot.

"Not only moa dominated avifaunas, but giant geese and adzebills shared the forest floor, while a giant eagle ruled the skies", Flinders University Associate Professor Trevor Worthy, who has been helping to excavate the deposits for years, said in a release. Both were quickly driven to extinction when the first Maori settlers arrived in New Zealand and hunted Moa for food, with the last individuals of both species likely disappearing in the early 15th century.

Archer told AFP that the bird had "a massive parrot beak that could crack wide open anything it fancied". Worthy doesn't think the bird was necessarily aggressive, however, given that it had no predators.

"While Heracles is one of the most spectacular birds we have found, no doubt there are many more unexpected species yet to be discovered in this most interesting deposit".

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