birding-aus Re Megapodes: Part 1.

Subject: birding-aus Re Megapodes: Part 1.
From: (Mike Tarburton)
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1999 15:59:50 +1000 (EST)
Sean asked:

Does anyone happen to know which species of Megapodius lives in the Solomon
Islands - and whether it differs substantially in appearance from
Orange-footed Scrubfowl?



Here are some data scanned from the acknowledged sources.  Hope it helps.
Mike Tarburton
Pacific Adventist University
PMB Boroko
Papua New Guinea

Haddon, D. Yr=?
Birds of the North Solomons


A family of 11 species virtually confined to the Australasian region, but
present as far north as the Philippines. Only one species is known on
Bougainville. Distinguished by the extraordinary habit of laying eggs in
heaped up mounds of rotting vegetation, where the heat of the decom-
posing material incubates the eggs. Also in sand or soil heated by the sun
or volcanic activity. Chicks are uncared for by parents, going their own
way after scratching out of the debris.

Megapodius freycinet SCRUBFOWL Pi.6b
Other Names: Incubator Bird, Megapode, Common Scrub Hen. Schodde considers
tills species should be called Bare-faced Scrub-fowl M. eremita.

Description:     40 cm. Resembles a sooty-colored small-headed chicken.
Upperparts dark brown and head and underparts grey. Short but prominent
crest on the back of the head. Bill yellow. Legs and feet orange.
Voice:     Loud chuckles, chortles and screams by night as well as day.
Loud 'kiau'.

Habitat: From the coast inland to 600 m (Diamond). Offshore islands.
Field Notes: Nests recorded for this species in the Solomons are almost
invariably burrow-nests, using volcanic or solar heat to incubate eggs
(Schodde). Diamond records villagers as saying it nests in fallen rotten
trees. Feeds on insects, earthworms and seeds. Has been recorded flying
from the mainland to small off-shore islands for roosting.
Distiibution:     Australia, Philippines, NewGuinea, Bismarcks, Solomons,
Vanuatu, SE Asia.

Pratt, H.D., P.L. Bruner, & D.G. Berrett. 1987. A Field Guide to The Birds
of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific.


MEGAPODEs are ground-dwelling birds with large legs and feet. They are
dark-colored and vaguely rail-like or chicken-like. Despite their
terrestrial habits, most species fly well and can cross water gaps between
islands with ease. The family is well represented on islands of the
Indo-Australian region. The two tropical Pacific species have peculiar
discontinuous distributions. Megapodes use natural heat from a variety of
sources to incubate their eggs in communal nest mounds. Adults usually
remain in the vicinity of the mounds and tend them regularly, but the young
are independent at hatching.

MICRONESIAN MEGAPODE Megapodius laperouse       PLATE 14 Appearance:
(15;38) A dark, brownish black, chicken-like       bird with a     short,
pale gray crest. Red skin shows through feathers at      base of yellow
bill. Posture rather like that of a guinea fowl. Habits: Terrestrial;
usually forages in pairs. Members of       a pair maintain contact by their
sharp calls. Deceptively strong fliers. Eggs laid in huge communal mounds
of sand or rock, usually on or near beaches. Heat from decaying vegetation
in the mound incubates the eggs, and the young are independent at hatching.
Megapodes are heard more often than seen, except on uninhabited islands,
where they may be rather tame.
Voice: Call a single loud keek! The more complex "song" is usually a
duet: one bird begins keek-keek-keek- . . . , gradually building in speed
and pitch to a loud keek-keeer-kew (Palau) or keek-keeer-keet (Marianas);
the other answers with a rapid, chuckling cackle rising in pitch and
slowing near the end.
Identification:     Care must be taken not to confuse megapodes with feral
chickens. The megapode is smaller, has a very short tail, different
posture, and always looks black in the field. At Palau the terrestrial
Nicobar Pigeon may cause confusion, but is distinguished by a neck ruff and
short white tail.
Occurrence:     Endemic to Micronesia, restricted to PALAU (all islands)
and the MARIANAS (Saipan and islands to the north, Agiguan, possibly
Tinian; extirpated on Rota and Guam). Common on uninhabited islands,
uncommon on Peleliu and Angaur (Palau), rare on inhabited islands. An
Endangered Species.
Reference:     Pratt, H. D., and P. L. Bruner. 1978. Micronesian Mega-
pode rediscovered on Saipan. 'Elepaio 39:57-59.

Other names: Mariana Scrub Fowl, Marianas Scrub Hen, Micronesian Incubator Bird.

NIUAFO'OU MEGAPODE Megapodiu-spritchardii                     PLATE 14

Appearance:     (15;38) A plain, dark gray-brown, chicken-like bird with
bright yellow legs and short crest.

Habits:     Feeds on the ground, usually on steep forested slopes. Flies
only when disturbed or pursued. Breeds year-round, laying eggs communally
in tunnels in volcanic ash near steam vents. Apparently takes ad-
vantage of volcanic heat to incubate eggs.
Identification:     Could be confused with feral chickens, which are larger
with prominent tails. Purple Swamphen immatures show bold white undertail
coverts. Banded Rail has longer bill, heavily barred plumage. Occurrence:
Endemic to NIUAFO'OU (Tonga). Found throughout the island. Maintains a
healthy population despite illegal egg-gathering by island residents.
Introduced to TAFAHI (Tonga) in 1968, status there unknown.

Reference:Weir,D.G.1973.Status and habits of Megapodius pritchardii.
Wilson Bull. 85:79-82.

Other names: Malau, Polynesian Scrub Hen, Niuafo'ou Incubator Bird,
Pritchard's Scrub Fowl."
.....Pt 2.

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