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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

World's Largest Parrot: Note on Emerging Science

Air Date: Week of

An artist’s reconstruction of Heracles inexpectatus by Dr. Brian Choo from Flinders University. (Photo: Brian Choo)

A team of paleontologists in New Zealand has discovered fossils of the largest known parrot to ever exist, estimated to be about 3 feet tall and 14 pounds. Living on Earth's Don Lyman has more on the discovery of this giant extinct bird.


CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.

Just ahead we’ll take a look at the problem of food waste in the United States but first this note on emerging science from Don Lyman.


This artist’s rendering compares the giant parrot, Heracles inexpectatus (below), to a similarly-extinct parrot, Nelepsittacus donmertoni (above). (Photo: Apokryltaros, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

LYMAN: Paleontologists in New Zealand have found fossils of the largest known parrot to ever exist. Researchers say the newly described species of extinct parrot, Heracles inexpectatus, would have been about 3 feet tall and 15 pounds. Scientists suspect the extinct bird probably had a massive beak that it may have used to rip open anything it liked, including other parrots. The fossilized leg bones of the giant parrot were unearthed at St. Bathans, New Zealand in 2008. Researchers thought the bones were from an extinct species of eagle. In fact, the bones sat with a collection of eagle bones for about 10 years until a graduate student realized that the fossil drumsticks were actually from a species of parrot that lived around 19 million years ago. Prior to this discovery the largest known parrot in the world was about two feet tall and around 9 pounds.

That’s the kakapo, a flightless, critically endangered parrot in New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand is a hotspot for giant birds. The island’s now extinct Moa were up to 12 feet tall and more than 500 pounds. Moas resembled their Australian cousins, emus. But until now no one had ever found an extinct giant parrot. That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Don Lyman.




National Geographic | “This Toddler-Size Parrot Was A Prehistoric Oddity”


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