Maleo (Macrocephalon maleo)

Also known as: Gray's brush-turkey, maleo megapode
  
Spanish: Megapodio Maleo, Talégalo Maleo
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGalliformes
FamilyMegapodiidae
GenusMacrocephalon
SizeSize: 55-60 cm (2)

The maleo is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The maleo is a large, black and white bird with a prominent medium-length tail. As its alternative name, maleo megapode suggests, it has characteristically large feet. This striking bird has a distinctive bony, dark casque on its crown, a yellowish face, and a bare pale bill (2). The thighs are black, and the belly white, with pink hues on the breast (4). This rare bird is usually silent but, especially around nesting sites, it can emit quite extraordinary noises. These include loud braying and, when in disputes, a duck-like quacking (4).

The maleo is endemic to the Indonesian islands, Sulawesi and Buton (2).

The maleo inhabits lowland and hill rainforest, up to at least 1,065 metres. When travelling to coastal nesting sites this bird also resides in man-modified habitats. Its nesting sites include sandy beaches, lakeshores and riverbanks (4).

The maleo is a shy bird. It is active at night, and during the hours of dawn and dusk (2). It nests in groups at traditional sites along the islands’ coasts, where the sandy beaches, lakeshores and riverbanks are warmed by solar and/or geothermal radiation (4). The eggs are left to incubate and hatch with no further parental support (2).

The maleo has become endangered due to the cumulative effects of various threats (4). Unsustainable harvesting of its eggs by locals for food, and human disturbance of nesting grounds have led to the abandonment of most coastal nesting colonies which has disastrous effects on the maleo’s breeding potential. A recent survey indicated that, of the 131 formerly known nesting grounds, an astounding 42 have been abandoned by the maleo. Furthermore, 38 are severely threatened, 34 are threatened, 12 are of unknown status, and only five are not yet threatened (4).

In addition, forest destruction and fragmentation due to logging, agriculture, urban and road developments have isolated virtually all of the maleo’s coastal nesting grounds from non-breeding habitats. This has significantly increased the risk of mortality and natural predation of maleo chicks, and, as small populations become increasingly fragmented, their chances of successful breeding and survival are increasingly reduced (4). Invasive vegetation also poses a threat to the maleo’s nesting grounds (2). The global population is currently estimated at between 4,000-7,000 breeding pairs, though this number is declining rapidly in places, by up to 90% since 1950 (2).

This endemic species has been protected under Indonesian law since 1972, and over 50% of (chiefly inland) nesting grounds occur within protected areas. Conservation measures at present include researching the numbers of breeding birds, the effectiveness of hatcheries and artificial incubation programmes, sustainable egg-collection practices and renewing local community-based protection projects (4). Eco-tourism is also being encouraged as an alternative income to egg-harvesting (2). There are also plans to improve management practices in protected areas, and extend these protected ranges to encompass other important nesting sites and forest corridors, which will link fragmented areas together (4).

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. Birdlife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and Birdlife International. Barcelona and Cambridge.
  2. IUCN Redlist 2003 (February 2004)
    http://www.redlist.org
  3. CITES (February 2004)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. BirdLife International 2003 BirdLife's online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (February 2004)
    http://www.birdlife.org