Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Giant eagle at Macraes

The extinct Haast eagle was the largest eagle ever known, so big that it preyed on giant moa. In the bird-dominated New Zealand ecosystem, the Haast eagles filled the niche of the big cats, or of bears - the largest land-based predators. When the giant moa were hunted to extinction by humans, the giant eagles also became extinct.

At the Macraes gold mine site in Central Otago, soon to be the site of Macraes Heritage and Art Park, a giant eagle sculpture made of stainless steel has been erected. The eagle was made by Queenstown sculptor Mark Hill in his studio in Arrowtown. It is 8m tall and has a wingspan of 12m, roughly four times the scale of the extinct bird, so it will be a landmark in the area. And how did it get from Arrowtown to Macraes? It flew, of course!
The ODT has more information about the sculpture here and there are details of the installation, plus a picture of the eagle arriving by helicopter, here.

You can read more about the Haast eagle on the excellent New Zealand Birds site here.
And because I couldn't resist it, here is a video dramatisation of a Haast eagle attacking a person. Please bear in mind there's no hard evidence that the eagles did attack humans, although there is evidence that humans hunted the eagles. Anyway, the video gives you an idea of the size of the birds!

Another highlight of the Macraes Heritage and Art Park is a vast installation of speargrass and snow tussock by Auckland artist John Reynolds. You can read about it in this Art New Zealand feature .

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