Extinct 'Lord of The Rings' eagles had a 10-foot wingspan and probably could have carried a hobbit

Fossils discovered in Australia are from an extinct type of eagle that was large enough to catch prey the height of hobbits, much like the gigantic eagles depicted in "The Lord of the Rings."

An ancient hulk of an eagle that once flew over Australia resembles the imagined gigantic eagles from J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy novel "The Lord of the Rings," according to a new research on the extinct birds. Even though the actual giants weren't as huge as their mythical counterparts (and almost certainly couldn't be mounted by a magician), they were probably heavy enough to use their enormous claws to capture hobbit-sized prey.

The new species, Dynatoaetus gaffae, was named after a group of remains discovered between 1959 and 2021 in a 56-foot-deep (17-meter) vertical tunnel in the Australian state of South Australia. The bones, which include wings, legs, talons, a breastbone, and a skull, show that the enormous bird probably had talons that were about 12 inches (30 centimeters) long and a wingspan of about 10 feet (3 meters), making it Australia's biggest bird of prey on record, according to a recent study that was published on March 15 in the Journal of Ornithology.

It was enormous, according to research co-author and animal paleontologist Trevor Worthy of Flinders University in Australia. He continued that it was probably the largest eagle on the globe at the time and resided between 50,000 and 700,000 years ago.

Australia was home to a variety of other enormous animals during the eagle's rule, including big flightless birds, enormous kangaroos (Procoptodon sp.), enormous monitor lizards (Varanus priscus), and bear-like marsupials. (Diprotodon optatum). According to researchers, D. gaffae may have preyed on young or weak members of these enormous species. These animals might have reached the size of extant kangaroos, like the western gray kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus), which stands at a height of about 4.3 feet (1.3 meters). According to the "Lord of the Rings" novels, hobbits were between 3 and 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) tall.

According to Wiki Fandom, despite its enormous height, D. gaffae was much smaller than the enormous eagles from Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" movies, which had spans of up to 75 feet (23 m).D. gaffae, however, was bigger than the wedge-tailed eagle of Australia (Aquila audax), which is still living and most likely coexisted with D. gaffae before the larger eagle species became extinct.

D. gaffae resembles extant eagles in the genus Spilornis, which has six species that are found in Asia and share a similar body structure. The Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), the biggest of these, feeds on young pigs, deer, lemurs, monkeys, and bats. In an essay for Australasian Science, research lead author Ellen Mather, a PhD applicant in paleontology at Flinders University, noted that D. gaffae and P. jefferyi both have large and strong legs for their size, allowing them to assault and take away large targets.

Only two extinct species of eagle were bigger than D. gaffae: the gigantic Haasts eagle of New Zealand (Hieraaetus moorei), which dove straight into deceased prey to consume the organs, and Gigantohierax suarezi, which pursued enormous rodents in Cuba. Both of these species were larger and had wingspans comparable to those of D. gaffae.

Other prehistoric eagles have been found in Australia in recent years besides D. gaffae. Archaehierax sylvestris, a previously undiscovered species that probably pursued big koalas around 25 million years ago, was discovered by scientists in 2021.