Scientists are adding a new creature to a list of giant, prehistoric animals that were previously unknown: The Heracles inexpectus, a supersize parrot, estimated to have been as tall as a small human child, was discovered by Australian researchers in New Zealand, according to a study published in Biology Letters.
Bones of the bird, somewhere between 16 and 19 million years old, were discovered in a now extinct lake in St. Bathans in 2008. But the fossilized tibiotarsi, essentially the bird's drumsticks, sat on a shelf for nearly a decade before a graduate student took a closer look. She realized the bones had been misidentified as an enormous, possibly human-eating eagle — which wouldn't have been groundbreaking in the ornithological world, Trevor Worthy, the study's lead researcher, told NPR.
Instead, Worthy, who is a paleontologist at Flinders University, figured out the leg bones are evidence of the largest parrot known to science — now nicknamed "Squawkzilla."
"The realization that these were parrots was astonishing, because nowhere has such a large parrot been found before," Worthy said. Prior to his discovery, New Zealand's kakapo was believed to be the largest.
The research team concluded the flightless parrot weighed 15 pounds and stood about 3 feet tall.