Legendary giant Bird of New Zealand.

Etymology: Waitaha Maori (Austronesian) name.


Variant names: Breaksea devil, Hakawai, Hakuai, Hakuwai, Harkowhy, Hokioi, Poua-kai, Poukai, Pouwa, Puoa.

Physical description: Resembles a giant eagle. Behavior: Nocturnal. Call is a screaming "hakuai, hakuai, ooh," followed by the sound of a clanking chain. Darts down from the sky and seizes men, women, and children, carrying them off as food.

Distribution: South Island, Stewart Island, Breaksea Island, and the Chatham Islands, New Zealand.

Present status: The bird is said to have been killed off a long time ago by a group of warriors with red hair.

Possible explanations:

(1) The Great frigatebird (Fregata minor), which may have visited New Zealand in the past.

(2) The Auckland Island snipe (Coenocorypha aucklandica), in display flight.

(3) The extinct New Zealand black swan (Cygnus sumnerensis), which had disappeared before colonization.

(4) A surviving Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei), the largest known eagle, that fed on giant moas. It had an estimated wingspan of 9 feet 10 inches and talons the size of tiger claws. It was apparently a powerful flier but may have been too heavy to soar.

Sources: Walter Lawry Buller, A History of the Birds ofNew Zealand (London: Walter Lawry Buller, 1888), vol. 2, p. 183; Thomas M. Hocken, Contributions to the Early History of New Zealand, Settlement ofOtago (London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1898), p. 224; Johannes C. Andersen, Myths and Legends of the Polynesians (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1931), pp. 126-131; Alexander W. Reed, Myths and Legends ofMaoriland (Wellington, New Zealand: Reed, 1961), p. 193; Atholl Anderson, Prodigious Birds: Moas and Moa-Hunting in Prehistoric New Zealand (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 92; H. W. Orsman, ed., The Dictionary ofNew Zealand English (Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 90, 238, 330, 351-352, 629-630.

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