Ancient fossils of parrot found in New Zealand claim the species was 1 m tall

Ancient fossils of parrot

Recent study investigates the remains of a giant parrot about 19 million years ago which roamed New Zealand and who had the height of 1m (3ft 2in), which is more than half the average height of a human.

On basis of the parrot’s height, the bird is believed to have been flightless and carnivorous, unlike most of the birds. The bird weighed precisely over one stone (7kg); scientists believe the bird would have been only two times heavier than kākāpo, which is the largest previously known parrot.

“There are no other giant parrots in the world,” commented Professor Trevor Worthy, a palaeontologist at Flinders University in Australia. He is also the lead author of the study. “Finding one is very significant,” he adds.

The fossil of the bird was found near St Bathans in New Zealand’s region of southern Otago. The new found species has been named Heracles inexpectatus, based on its unprecedented strength and size. The area St Bathans is famous for abundant availability of fossils, especially from the Miocene epoch which existed 23 million to 5.3 million years ago.

The bones of the bird were stored for eleven years until early this year. The bones were previously believed to be those of an eagle or a duck, until they were reexamined by palaeontologists.

According to a report mentioned by Professor Trevor Worthy, one of his students chanced upon the parrot’s bones during a research project. According to sources, the beak of the bird was so big, it “could crack wide open anything it fancied”.

Furthermore, it is believed, that since the bird had no predators, it was unlikely to be aggressive. It probably mostly fed on nuts, and seeds, in addition to mostly sitting on the ground.

Discovering large birds in New Zealand’s region is uncommon. It previously inhabited moa, which is now extinct, but is known to have the height of 3.6m (11ft 8in).

“But until now, no-one has ever found an extinct giant parrot – anywhere,” said Prof Worthy.

“We have been excavating these fossil deposits for 20 years, and each year reveals new birds and other animals… no doubt there are many more unexpected species yet to be discovered in this most interesting deposit.”


Owning to the discovery of the bird, a study was published on Tuesday in the journal Biology Letters.