A gigantic parrot which weighed 11 stone and stood three feet tall once soared over New Zealand, with a massive beak which may have devoured other parrots.
Researchers from Flinders University named it Heracles inexpectatus after the hero of Greek myth - to reflect the ancient bird’s massive size.
IThe fossil is about the size of the giant flightless ‘dodo’ of the Mascarenes, and twice the size of the previous largest known parrot.
Flinders University Associate Professor Trevor Worthy said, ‘"New Zealand is well known for its giant birds. Not only moa dominated avifaunas, but giant geese and adzebills shared the forest floor, while a giant eagle ruled the skies.
‘But until now, no-one has ever found an extinct giant parrot - anywhere.’
It’s likely that Heracles ate foods including other parrots, says Professor Mike Archer, from the UNSW Sydney Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives (PANGEA) Research Centre.
Archer says, ‘Heracles, as the largest parrot ever, no doubt with a massive parrot beak that could crack wide open anything it fancied, may well have dined on more than conventional parrot foods, perhaps even other parrots.
‘Its rarity in the deposit is something we might expect if it was feeding higher up in the food chain. New Zealand keas, for example, have even developed a taste for sheep since these were introduced by European settlers in 1773.’