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  • This Connected article by Sophie Fern covers the discovery of Squawkzilla – a giant parrot that lived in New Zealand 19 million years ago. Two leg bones were dug up in 2008, but they were not correctly identified until ten years later. It demonstrates how scientists work and how it is possible to make educated guesses about what life used to look like millions of years ago. It shows that scientific ‘discoveries’ often take time and require careful observation and teamwork.

    From the two bones that were found, scientists officially named the newly identified parrot as Heracles inexpectatus, though it was nicknamed Squawkzilla. They estimated that it would have been about 1 m tall and weigh about 7 kg – making it nearly twice the size of the world's current largest parrot, the kākāpō.

    Rights: Crown 2020

    Connected article: Squawkzilla

    An article in the 2020 level 2 Connected journal Digging Deeper’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

    Illustration by Tom Simpson.

    Science and maths concepts

    The key ideas covered are:

    • scientists make meaning from their observations and the meaning can change
    • living things are grouped according to sets of features that they have
    • using evidence from fossils
    • measurement between two points finds the length or height of an item.

    Check your school library for the article from the 2020 level 2 Connected journal ‘Digging Deeper’, download it as a Google slide presentation from Tāhūrangi or order it from the Ministry of Education.

    Rights: Crown 2020

    2020 Connected level 2: Digging deeper

    The cover of the 2020 level 2 Connected journal ‘Digging deeper’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand. This issue includes the articles ‘Squawkzilla’, ‘City of bugs’, ‘Whakaotirangi and her kete of kūmara’ and ‘Making scents’.

    Teacher support material

    The teacher support material (TSM) can be downloaded from Tāhūrangi (Word and PDF files available). It has three learning activities that support the technology, science, and mathematics and statistics aspects of the New Zealand Curriculum:

    • Wanted! A sharp-eyed expert …
    • Adaptable beaks
    • A matter of scale.

    Related content

    Explore the life of Joan Wiffen who helped identify one of New Zealand’s first dinosaur fossil.

    Found out how to Date a dinosaur, did you know that the world’s largest known dinosaurs once roamed New Zealand?

    Learn about the ancient fossils of Foulden Maar and the fight to protect the site from mining.

    The Connected article Foulden Maar: fossils or food? prompts critical thinking and ends with a call to social action.

    For more on fossils, explore the range of content we have under our fossils topic.

    Check out our entire range of Connected articles here. We’ve curated them by topic and concepts.

    Activity ideas

    Learn more about native bird adaptations and then put this knowledge to practice with the activity Classifying bird adaptations.

    In Fossil correlation students date fossils from one site by matching them to fossils already dated somewhere else.

    Useful links

    Read this Spinoff news story Discovered: The massive AF parrots that once roamed New Zealand.

    Listen to this news story from RadioNZ Squawkzilla a world first parrot discovery.

    The Connected journals can be ordered from the Down the Back of the Chair website. Access to these resources is restricted to Ministry-approved education providers. To find out if you are eligible for a login or if you have forgotten your login details, contact their customer services team on 0800 660 662 or email


    The Connected series is published annually by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

      Published 5 May 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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