Evidence for a giant parrot from the Early Miocene of New Zealand

Wednesday 07 August 2019

Trevor H Worthy, Suzanne J Hand, Michael Archer, R Paul Scofield and Vanesa L De Pietri. 2019. Evidence for a giant parrot from the early Miocene of New Zealand. Biology Letters 15:8.

Heracles Kuiornis reconstruction Brian Choo Flinders University

Reconstruction of the giant parrot Heracles, dwarfing a bevy of 8 cm high Kuiornis – small New Zealand wrens scuttling about on the forest floor. Illustration by Dr Brian Choo, Flinders University

Australasian palaeontologists have discovered the world’s largest parrot, standing up to 1 metre tall with a massive beak able to crack most food sources.

The new bird has been named Heracles inexpectatus to reflect its Herculean myth-like size and strength – and the unexpected nature of the discovery. Heracles is the extinct first giant parrot ever found. 

The New Zealand fossil is approximately the size of the giant Dodo pigeon of the Mascarenes and twice the size of the critically endangered flightless New Zealand Kākāpō, previously the largest known parrot. 

Like the Kākāpō, it was a member of an ancient New Zealand group of parrots that appear to be more primitive than parrots that thrive today on Australia and other continents.

Experts from Flinders University, UNSW Sydney and Canterbury Museum in New Zealand estimate Heracles to be 1 metre tall, weighing about 7 kg. 

The new parrot was found in fossils up to 19 million years old from near St Bathans in Central Otago, New Zealand, in an area well known for a rich assemblage of fossil birds from the Miocene period.

See the paper here

See our media release here

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