Biak Scrubfowl Megapodius geelvinkianus


Justification of Red List Category
This little-known megapode is classified as Vulnerable because of its small population which continues to decline owing to a variety of possible threats.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be declining at a moderate rate, owing to on-going habitat loss and degradation, and hunting pressure.

Distribution and population

Megapodius geelvinkianus is endemic to Biak-Supiori in Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Indonesia, and its satellite islands, Mios Korwar, Numfor, Manim and Mios Num. It is not clear whether one specimen, apparently from Manokwari on mainland Papua, represents a straggler from a nearby island or a mislabelled specimen (Jones et al. 1995). Its population size is unknown, but is believed to be small and declining. It was formerly common on Biak (Mayr and Meyer de Schauensee 1939) and it was heard regularly during the course of field visits to Biak between 1983 and 1997 (K. D. Bishop in litt. 2007), but only small numbers were seen during the 1990s on Owi (a satellite of Biak) and Supiori (Jones et al. 1995). It was recorded daily in and around Biak-Utara Reserve in 1997 (S. van Balen and B. M. Beehler in litt. 2000), and is still seen regularly by visitors (S. van Balen in litt. 2012). Overall, the population is thought to be in decline owing to a number of pressures on habitat within its range.


It is apparently shy and wary but has been recorded in primary forest, logged forest, secondary growth, dry scrub and scrub near a river. It is regularly seen in disturbed habitat (S. van Balen in litt. 2012). However, there is no information on its habitat preferences, general habits, diet or breeding biology, although these are probably broadly similar to other Megapodius species. It presumably builds nest-mounds or buries its eggs between decaying roots of trees (Jones et al. 1995).


Specific threats are undocumented, but are likely to include egg-collecting (although its widely spaced nest-mounds may reduce this risk (S. van Balen and B. M. Beehler in litt. 2000), hunting (which is a documented threat to other species on the islands) and perhaps predation by introduced mammals (Dekker and McGowan 1995). Much forest on Biak (particularly the southern plains) and Numfor has been destroyed or damaged by logging and subsistence farming; much of the remainder is under pressure (Bishop 1982, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1996, D. Holmes in litt. 2000) although the north part of the island appears to be secure (S. van Balen in litt. 2012). Much of Supiori comprises virtually impenetrable forested limestone mountains, which is likely to be safe from habitat degradation.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There are two protected areas on the islands, Biak-Utara and Pulau Supiori Nature Reserves, which cover substantial areas of lowland and hill forest on Biak and Supiori (Sujatnika et al. 1995). A further reserve has been proposed for Numfor (Diamond 1986).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys on all known islands of occurrence to assess fully its distribution and current population status. Devise a list of management recommendations, including ensuring adequate protection of nesting areas if different from non-breeding habitats. Assess habitat requirements and threats. Conduct research into its breeding biology. Assess status of forest on Biak-Supiori. Prevent potential introduction of ground predators.


36 cm. Medium-sized, all-brown megapode. Plumage largely dark grey with slight crest. Reddish or bluish face. Red or dark grey legs. Similar spp. No other gamebirds occur on these islands. Differs from rails such as Rufous-tailed Bush-hen Amaurornis moluccanus by crest, short bill and leg colour. Voice Various crowing and clucking calls. Hints Commonly heard and seen in Biak Utara Reserve.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., Taylor, J., Khwaja, N.

Dutson, G., van Balen, S., Dekker, R., Beehler, B., Holmes, D., Bishop, K.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Megapodius geelvinkianus. Downloaded from on 12/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 12/07/2020.