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 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.
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, though its population is still regarded as declining. 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.
- Order: Galliformes
- Family: Megapodiidae
- Population: 12,000-21,000
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 55-60cm
Endemic to Sulawesi and the Buton Islands in Indonesia
Habitat and Ecology
This species inhabits lowland and hill rainforest up to an altitude just over 1,000 m. When travelling to coastal nesting grounds the Maleo will travel though some man-modified habitats. They nest communally on beaches, river banks or lake shores. They feed mainly on fruits, seeds, ants, termites, beetles, molluscs and other small invertebrates.