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Moundbuilders: Megapodiidae

Maleo (macrocephalon Maleo): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Maleos grow to 21.7 inches (55 centime-ters) long. Females weigh slightly more (3.3 to 3.9 pounds, or 1.5 to 1.8 kilograms) than males (2.9 to 3.5 pounds, or 1.3 to 1.6 kilograms). This large bird has deep black upperparts and underparts that are white tinged with pink. The head is topped with a black "helmet."

Geographic range: The maleo is found on Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Habitat: Maleos live in tropical forests as well as plantations.

Diet: The maleo feeds on a variety of fruits and seeds. Also eats cockroaches and other invertebrates found on the forest floor.

Rather than building a mound out of the soil, the maleo burrows or tunnels into the soil. (Illustration by Dan Erickson. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: The maleo is a shy bird. Monogamous pairs will not leave each other and will defend their burrows from other pairs.

Rather than building a mound out of the soil, this species burrows or tunnels into the soil. Both sexes participate in burrowing and tending to the site. Eggs are laid 4 to 40 inches (10 to 100 centimeters) deep, with ten to twelve days in between each egg. Eggs are five times the size of chicken eggs.

Maleos and people: Natives of Sulawesi have harvested maleo eggs for centuries.

Conservation status: Classified as Vulnerable due to population decline. The increase in human population has caused overharvesting of maleo eggs. ∎



Jones, Darryl N., et al. The Megapodes: Megapodiidae. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1995.


"Megapode Captured On Film for First Time." BirdLife International (December 19, 2003). Online at http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2003/12/vanuatu_megapode.html (accessed on June 2, 2004).

Web sites:

"Craciformes." Earth Life. http://www.earthlife.net/birds/craciformes.html (accessed on June 2, 2004).

"Mallee Fowl." Earth Sanctuaries Limited. http://www.esl.com.au/malfowl.htm (accessed on June 2, 2004).

"The Malleefowl." Malleefowl Preservation Group. http://www.malleefowl.com.au/Malleefowl.htm (accessed on June 2, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsMoundbuilders: 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