Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Birds » Moundbuilders: Megapodiidae - Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Malleefowl (leipoa Ocellata): Species Accounts, Maleo (macrocephalon Maleo): Species Accounts - PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, MOUNDBUILDERS AND PEOP

Moundbuilders: Megapodiidae - Behavior And Reproduction

eggs vanuatu brien mounds

It's difficult to separate reproduction behavior from other behavior because nearly all aspects of life among moundbuilders revolve around their incubation (keeping eggs warm for hatching) methods. The moundbuilder family is vocal, and calls range from low-pitched and quiet to incredibly loud and wail-like.

Unlike other birds, moundbuilders do not use their body heat to incubate their eggs. Instead, they rely on solar radiation (on beaches), geothermal activity (from soil near volcanic areas), and the decomposition of organic matter (in mounds). Mounds consist of leaf-litter and soil, and adults constantly add fresh material to conserve moisture. Some species dig burrows rather than build mounds, and their eggs are incubated by the sun or geothermal sources (sand, soil). Clutch sizes range from twelve to thirty eggs each season and must incubate for forty-five to seventy days.


For the first time ever, the threatened Vanuatu (van-wah-TOO) megapode was captured on film by Dr. Mark O'Brien in December 2003. O'Brien, a researcher from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, had visited the Pacific nation of Vanuatu so that he could work with the chief in an effort to determine a way that islanders could still harvest eggs, but in a sustainable way.

According to a press release posted on Birdlife.org, only 2,500 pairs of Vanuatu megapodes remain, and only on the 108 islands of Vanuatu. As a result of O'Brien's visit, the chief initiated a conservation program that included a moratorium (temporary halt) on egg collection that lasted four months. Anyone disobeying the rule was fined $135 or the equivalent in pigs or cattle. And because the species is rarer in the southeastern part of the nation, those communities agreed to a five-year ban on egg collection.

O'Brien acknowledged that another visit to Vanuatu is necessary to learn the effects of the moratorium.

Moundbuilders lay their eggs in individual holes deep within the incubation site, and each chick hatches separately, without help from the parents. Chicks dig for two to fifteen hours to reach the surface, and they are completely independent at the time of hatching. This means they leave the site, find food and water, recognize and avoid predators, animals that hunt them for food, and even regulate their own body heat upon birth.

Some moundbuilders are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus; having only one mate) while others are polygynous (puh-LIH-juh-nus; one male, several females). Predators include foxes, birds of prey, dingoes, and wild cats.

Moundbuilders: Megapodiidae - Conservation Status [next]

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