A reconstruction of Heracles inexpectatus, the New Zealand parrot. The team initially thought the fossils belonged to a giant eagle. Photograph: Brian Choo/Flinders University
“Fossils of the largest parrot ever recorded have been found in New Zealand. Estimated to have weighed about 7kg (1.1st), it would have been more than twice as heavy as the kākāpo, previously the largest known parrot.” (The Guardian)
Kakapo (Strigops habroptila) ©WikiC showing whiskers around beak
“Palaeontologists have named the new species Heracles inexpectatus to reflect its unusual size and strength and the unexpected nature of the discovery.
Prof Trevor Worthy of Flinders University in Australia, the lead author of the research published in the journal Biology Letters, said: “Once we decided it was something new and interesting, the challenge was to figure out what family it was from.
“Because no giant parrots have been found previously, parrots were not on our radar – thus it took some time to differentiate all other birds essentially from parrots to conclude that the unique suite of characters was definitive of a parrot.”
Paul Scofield, a senior curator of natural history at Canterbury Museum, said the fossil had been excavated in 2008, and initially the team had thought the bones were part of a giant eagle.”
From the Washington Post: “The large bones, believed to be the bones of an ancient eagle, flew under the radar for a decade. It was during a research project in the lab of Flinders University paleontologist Trevor Worthy that a graduate student rediscovered the bones. After that, a team of researchers began reanalyzing the findings earlier this year, according to the BBC
“It was completely unexpected and quite novel,” Worthy, the study’s lead author, told National Geographic. “Once I had convinced myself it was a parrot, then I obviously had to convince the world.”
Kea (Nestor notabilis) by Ian
Researchers concluded that the bird probably couldn’t fly and consumed what was along the ground and easy to reach, according to National Geographic. But that might not have been enough to satiate the giant parrot.
It’s possible the bird had more carnivorous ways, like another New Zealand parrot, the kea, which has been known to attack and subsequently munch upon living sheep, the magazine reported.
Keas, the world’s only alpine parrots, are native to New Zealand’s South Island. (Erin E. Williams for The Washington Post)
Michael Archer, a co-author of the research and paleontologist at the University of New South Wales, told National Geographic that heracles might have even been eating other parrots, giving way to a nickname: “Squawkzilla.”
Archer told Agence France-Presse the bird had “a massive parrot beak that could crack wide open anything it fancied.”
Heracles probably won’t be the final unforeseen fossil from the St. Bathans area, Worthy told AFP. The researchers have turned up many surprising birds and animals over the years.
“No doubt there are many more unexpected species yet to be discovered in this most interesting deposit,” Worthy said.”