(Macrocephalon maleo)
This large, predominantly black and white bird is found on two islands within Indonesia. In the last 60 years the population has declined by as much as 90%. The primary threat is the harvesting of eggs by the local communities which has led to a number of nesting sites being abandoned. The population is estimated at somewhere between 8,000–14,000 mature individuals. The Maleo has been protected under Indonesian law since 1972 and half of the current nesting sites are within protected areas. A small number of these locations receive conservation attention such as guard patrols which have led to an increase in hatch rates. Community engagement projects have been delivered to educate local people about the impacts of egg harvesting and a number of former ‘egg diggers’ are now employed as guards.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Nesting sites must be protected from human interference, predators, habitat conversion and invasive vegetation.
Endemic to the Sulawesi and Buton islands in Indonesia.
The Maleo has several different vocalisations, one of which sounds like a duck’s quack.
Media from ARKive
Arkive image - Maleo egg being held in hand, to indicate size
Arkive video - Maleo - overview
Arkive video - Maleo laying and burying egg
Arkive image - Maleo egg with hen's egg for scale, at a hatchery
Arkive image - Maleo chick emerging from nest in sand
Arkive video - Maleo chick hatching
Arkive image - Newly hatched maleo chick emerging
Arkive video - Maleo perched in a tree
Arkive video - Maleo calling
Arkive image - Maleo chick emerging from nest in sand
Arkive video - Maleo courtship display
Arkive image - Maleo chick emerging
Arkive image - Newly hatched maelo chick
Arkive video - Maleo nest building
Arkive video - Maleo defending nest site
Arkive image - Maleo chick on rangers hand
Arkive video - Maleo breeding habitat
Arkive image - A one day old maleo chick being released from a hatchery
Arkive video - Maleo egg collection
Arkive image - Maleo standing on tree branch
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Galliformes
Family: Megapodiidae
Megapodiidae is one of the five families within the order Galliformes. There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the phylogeny of Megapodes but it is now widely accepted that the family consists of seven genera with 22 extant species. The family can be separated roughly in half by distinguishing species as either ‘mound-builders’ or ‘burrow-nesters’. Whilst the Maleo does not build a mound it is more closely related to the mound-builders. It appears that the Maleo may have diverged from other species approximately 30 million years ago.
The tree below shows the evolutionary relationships between this species and all other birds. The colours of the tree indicate EDGE scores with the red shades indicating the higher priority species; the bright red leaves correspond to the top 100 EDGE bird species. Further information on every species can be found by zooming in to its leaf on the tree.
The Maleo is a large, black and white bird. It features a wide, medium-length tail and large feet. Its most distinguishing feature is the bony casque on its crown along with its yellow face. It has a black back and thighs with a white belly and slightly pinkish breast.

Inhabiting lowland and hill rainforest this species often travel through man-modified habitats to reach their coastal breeding grounds. The Maleo is a communal nester, which is considered to be an evolutionary strategy against egg predation. It regularly nests on sandy beaches, riverbanks and lake shores. Female birds will lay 8–12 eggs over the course of a year. These are laid in a pit which will be warmed either though solar or geothermal heat. These eggs, which are five times larger than a hen's egg, are left to incubate for 2–3 months with no parental supervision. When the eggs hatch the young will tunnel to the surface and be ready to fly, requiring no parental care whatsoever.

This species will inhabit lowland and hill rainforest up to an altitude just over 1,000 metres. When travelling to coastal nesting ground the Maleo will travel through some man-modified habitats. It will nest on beaches, river banks or lake shores.
Endemic to Sulawesi and the Buton Islands in Indonesia.
Population Estimate
8,000-14,000 adults
Population Trend

Many nesting sites have been abandoned due to egg harvesting and conversion of land to agriculture. This has led to a rapid decline in population numbers, in some places by as much as 90% since 1950. The fragmentation and destruction of forest habitat represents a serious threat to the current population. In the past 15 years there have been two serious wildfire events, in 2000 and 2004. The fires cleared large areas of forest and the resulting regrowth was not suitable habitat for the Maleo. Non-breeding habitats and coastal breeding grounds have now become isolated from each other due to an increase in urban and road developments. This has drastically increased the risk of mortality for these birds when moving between sites.  The eggs are a popular local delicacy, and over-harvesting for food is still an issue.

Conservation Underway
The species is currently listed on CITES appendix I and has been protected by Indonesian law since 1972. A species action plan for megapodes was created covering 2000–2004. More than half of the nesting grounds are within protected areas with a number of sites receiving active conservation attention and guard patrols, which have led to greater hatch rates. Community engagement has been effective in certain areas where former ‘egg diggers’ were hired to guard hatching sites and has been successful long after its trial period. Communities and local NGO’s have also been used to help improve forest quality and nesting sites. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) currently protects four nesting sites in or near Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park where over 8,000 chicks were hatched and released in 2013.
Conservation Proposed
One of the most important conservation measures is the need to protect nesting grounds that are in use, especially those that face immediate threat. This would be more slightly effective than translocating eggs in the hope of recolonising abandoned nesting sites, which may be a tool used in the future. Nesting sites must be protected from humans, predators and invasive vegetation. Community based initiatives should be organized to educate local communities about conservation. Monitoring programmes must be implemented to assess the effectiveness of any conservation measures.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Macrocephalon maleo. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/07/2013

Clements, T. (2009) Case study: conservation of Sulawesi's Endangered mascot - the Maleo - through conservation incentive agreements. Wildlife Conservation Society, New York.

Dekker, R. W. R. J., Fuller, R. A. and Baker, G. C. (2000) Megapodes. Status survey and conservation action plan 2000-2004. IUCN and World Pheasant Association, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Gorog, A.J.,  Pamungkas, B. and Lee, R.J. (2005) Nesting ground abandonment by the Maleo (Macrocephalon maleo) in North Sulawesi: identifying conservation priorities for Indonesia's endemic megapode. Biological Conservation 126: 548-555.

Jones, D., and Goth, A. (2008) Mound-builders. CSIRO PUBLISHING.

Summers, M. (2007) Report of conservation activities at Maleo nesting ground Libuun, Taima, Tompotika, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia August 2006 – June 2007. Megapode Newsletter 20(1): 4-5
Text compiled by Jack Stewart. Factchecked by Peter Clyne.

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