Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Galliformes Megapodiidae

Scientific Name: Megapodius laperouse
Species Authority: Gaimard, 1823
Common Name(s):
English Micronesian Scrubfowl, Micronesian Scrubfowl, Marianas Scrubfowl
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Taxonomic Notes:

Identification information: 38 cm. Medium-sized, dark megapode with paler head. Mostly brownish-black with short pale grey crest. Yellow bill, red facial skin showing through thin feathers. Unusually large, dingy yellow legs and feet. Similar spp. Could be confused with dark morphs of Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus (or feral domestic stock). Voice Call a loud keek, song often a duet with one bird beginning a rising and accelerating keek-keek-keek-keek- etc. culminating in a loud kee-keer-kew (Palau) or keek-keer-keet (Marianas), the other answering with a rising cackle that slows near the end. Hints Often shy and secretive, but becomes relatively tame on inhabited islands where protected from disturbance.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Lepson, J., Millett, J., Wiles, G., Camp, R. & Gupta, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Derhé, M., Keane, A., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.
This species qualifies as Endangered because it has a very small, fragmented range and a relatively small estimated population. Given the multiple threats across its range, it is likely to be suffering a continuing decline.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Endangered (EN)
2004 Endangered (EN)
2000 Endangered (EN)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (VU)
1988 Threatened (T)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Megapodius laperouse occurs on Palau and the Northern Mariana Islands (to USA), and is extirpated from Guam (to USA). In Palau, race senex is generally uncommon to rare and locally distributed (VanderWerf 2007), although 'hundreds' were recently reported on Kayangel Atoll (J. Millet in litt. 2007, G. Wiles in litt. 2012). In 1991, the population was estimated at 497 birds, excluding Kayangel (Engbring and Pratt 1985, Engbring 1992). In 2005, a repeat survey found stable numbers on Peleliu and Babeldaob, but evidence of declines in the Rock Islands and on Anguar (VanderWerf 2007). Kayangel Atoll was not included in this survey. In the Marianas, nominate laperouse is mainly restricted to the islands north of Saipan (including Farallon de Medinilla [Lusk et al. 2000]). In 1997, the population was estimated at 1,440-1,975 birds (the largest subpopulation being 545-810 on Sarigan) (USFWS 1998). A remnant population of a few birds may persist on Tinian (Wiles et al. 1987, USFWS 1998, J. Lepson in litt. 1999), although no individuals were detected during a survey in 2008 (Camp et al. 2009). Aguiguan supports a small population (USFWS 1998), and  equal numbers of birds were detected during surveys in 1982 and 2008 (14 and 15 birds, respectively [Camp et al. 2009]). A small population (14 birds) was reintroduced on Saipan (Craig 1996); however, during a survey of bird species on Saipan in 2007, the species was not reported (R. Camp in litt. 2008). A significant population on Anatahan, estimated at 200-300 birds (USFWS 1998) was lost in the early 2000s when all habitat on the island was destroyed by a major volcanic eruption.

Countries occurrence:
Northern Mariana Islands; Palau
Regionally extinct:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 840
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 11-100
Continuing decline in number of locations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 50
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are estimated to be hundreds of birds in Kayangel (J. Millet in litt. 2007), 497 birds in the rest of Palau (Engbring and Pratt 1985, Engbring 1992), and 1,440-1,975 birds in the Marianas (USFWS 1998). These estimates total 2,000-2,500 individuals, roughly equating to 1,300-1,700 mature individuals.

Trend Justification:  The Palau population is suspected to be undergoing a continued decline (VanderWerf 2007) owing to human disturbance of nest mounds and the effects of introduced species and continued persecution; however, the likely rate of decline has not been estimated.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 1300-1700 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: Yes
No. of subpopulations: 2-100 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Most remaining populations in the Marianas inhabit areas of volcanic forest and coconut groves on volcanic islands, whereas those present on the limestone islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Aguiguan prefer limestone forest and secondary forest (USFWS 1998). In Palau, most birds inhabit limestone and beach strand forests, with smaller numbers present in upland volcanic forests (Engbring 1992, VanderWerf 2007). The species is omnivorous, taking a wide variety of foods from the forest floor including insects, crabs and plant matter (Engbring 1988, USFWS 1998). Nominate laperouse nests in burrows in sun-warmed cinder fields or geothermally-heated areas (USFWS 1998). Race senex nests in large mounds located primarily in narrow beach strand forests; these are constructed of sand and plant material (Wiles and Conry 2001). A few mounds are also built in upland forest and are made of decayed wood and other plant material.

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 4
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the Marianas, forests are periodically degraded by typhoons and damaged by feral herbivores, sometimes resulting in the loss of topsoil, and consequent reduction of food and nesting sites. A volcanic eruption destroyed the entire megapode population on Anatahan in the early 2000s. Volcanic activity is an ongoing threat on other islands as well, and can bury vegetation and nesting areas (USFWS 1998). Birds were hunted, and eggs were collected in the past (USFWS 1998), but the current extent of these problems is unknown. In Palau, increased tourist use of beaches has resulted in disturbance to nest sites (Engbring 1992). Birds are infrequently hunted in Palau, but the eggs are still regularly collected illegally from nest mounds (Engbring 1992, Pratt and Etpison 2008). On all islands, predation on megapodes by introduced predators, e.g. monitor lizard Varanus indicus, rats Rattus spp., and feral cats, dogs and pigs is a threat (USFWS 1998, Pratt and Etpison 2008). The accidental introduction of the brown tree snake Boiga irregularis from Guam to other islands in the Marianas and to Palau is a serious threat (USFWS 1998).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
In the Marianas, a  recovery plan exists and the species is protected by federal and local laws (USFWS 1998). More surveys are planned (USFWS 1998). In 1998 and 1999, feral goats and pigs were removed from Sarigan (G. Wiles in litt. 1999). The uninhabited islands of Asuncion, Maug, Uracus and Guguan are wildlife sanctuaries (USFWS 1998). One important conservation action was the re-introduction of this species to Saipan in the 1960s and 1970s by local islanders (USFWS 1998). In Palau, the Ngerukewid Islands Wildlife Reserve protects 50-80 birds (Wiles and Conry 1990). There are plans to eradicate rats from the atoll of Kayangel (J. Millet in litt. 2007, A. Gupta in litt. 2011). The status of the species in Palau is under active review by Belau National Museum (A. Olsen in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct detailed censuses (including mapping nesting sites). Develop a long-term monitoring programme. Continue ecological research. In Palau, determine the risk of human disturbance to nest sites. In the Marianas, preserve remnant forest from development and feral ungulates. Throughout its range, selectively control cats, rats, and monitor lizards, and protect all islands from the introduction of the brown tree-snake. Implement an education programme to discourage hunting of the species. Eradicate rats from Kayangel.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Megapodius laperouse. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22678620A38277117. . Downloaded on 06 October 2015.
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