SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

Giant eagle confirmed as Australia's largest raptor

An eagle twice the size of a modern-day species, with a three-metre wingspan and talons large enough to grab a kangaroo, has been confirmed as Australia's largest-ever bird of prey.

Closely related to the old-world vultures of Africa and Asia and the critically endangered Philippine eagle, it is now known to be the top avian predator in the late Pleistocene period.

Flinders University fossil hunters have pieced together its story, naming the giant bird Dynatoaetus gaffae.

They conducted extensive research on fossil remains in South Australia's Mairs Cave in the Flinders Ranges, connecting the dots to other bones previously found in Naracoorte Caves, Wellington Caves and near Cooper Creek in the Lake Eyre Basin.

A field trip to the Flinders Ranges in late 2021 found a further 28 bones scattered among boulders at the site.

"We were very excited to find many more bones from much of the skeleton to create a better picture and description of these magnificent long-lost giant extinct birds," palaeontology researcher Ellen Mather said.

"It's often been noted how few large land predators Australia had back then, so Dynatoaetus helps fill that gap."

With 30-centimetre talons, the raptor would have been able to dispatch a kangaroo, large flightless bird or other species of Australia's lost megafauna from that era.

It also co-existed with still-living species such as the Wedge-tailed eagle.

"Given that the Australian birds of prey used to be more diverse, it could mean the Wedge-tailed eagle in the past was more limited in where it lived and what it ate," Dr Mather said.

"Otherwise, it would have been directly competing against the giant Dynatoaetus for those resources."