Fossil of the largest parrot ever recorded is estimated to weigh about 7kg, twice as heavy as the previously largest known parrot – kākāpo.
Paleontologists have named the new species Heracles Inexpectatus to reflect its unusual size and strength and the unexpected nature of the discovery.
What was initially thought to be the bones of a giant eagle was later revealed to be that of the new parrot species.
Paul Scofield, a senior curator of natural history at Canterbury Museum, said that the fossil had been excavated in 2008.
“The parrot’s weight meant there was a possibility it was flightless,” He said.
“Although the area is now very cold and known for its skiing, the climate at the time meant the parrot would have lived near a giant lake in a diverse subtropical forest,” Scofield added.
Despite the bird’s unknown diet, Scofield noted most parrots today are vegetarian.
Prof Trevor Worthy of Flinders University in Australia, the lead author of the research published in the journal Biology Letters, said: “Once we decided it was something new and interesting, the challenge was to figure out what family it was from.”
The bones, which will go on display at an exhibition in November, were found in a fossil deposit from the early Miocene epoch, about 19m years ago, near Saint Bathans in Central Otago, New Zealand.
Complex ecosystems and lack of predators on islands frequently produce large, unusual, and often flightless bird. Still existing examples are the kiwi of New Zealand and the dodo of Mauritius.