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Poua

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Legendary giant BIRD of New Zealand.

Etymology: Waitaha Maori (Austronesian) 
name.

Variant names: Breaksea devil, Hakawai, 
Hakuai, Hakuwai, Harkowhy, Hokioi, Pouakai, 
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.

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