"It was certainly capable of swooping down and taking a child," said Paul Scofield, the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Canterbury Museum.
"They had the ability to not only strike with their talons but to close the talons and put them through quite solid objects such as a pelvis. It was designed as a killing machine."
Its main prey would have been moa, flightless birds which grew to as much as 250kg and 2.5 metres tall.
"In some fossil sites, moa bones have been found with signs of eagle predation," Dr Scofield said.
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(image credit: John Megahan/PLoS Biology)