Justification of Red List Category
The rapid population decline of this megapode, caused primarily by over-exploitation, is projected to continue, which qualifies it as Vulnerable.
Heij et al. (1997) established the total egg-laying population that nests on Haruku Island at 4200 females. 13,000-14,000 egg-laying females were estimated at Galela on Halmahera in 1995 (Heij et al. 1997). Also the coastal strip of North Seram holds c.1500-2500 egg laying females, and several other islands hold small populations. These estimates total c.18,000-20,000 females or 36,000-40,000 mature individuals, hence the total population is perhaps best placed in the band 20,000-49,999 individuals.
The population is suspected to be decreasing rapidly, owing to the uncontrolled and unsustainable harvest of eggs, a reduction in the number of adults from hunting pressure and introduced predators, and the fragmentation of habitats.
Eulipoa wallacei is endemic to the Moluccan Islands of Buru, Seram, Haruku, Ambon, Bacan, Halmahera, Ternate, and Misool off Irian Jaya (from where there is only one old record), Indonesia (Dekker et al. 2000, BirdLife International 2001). The vast majority of the population nests at two sites: Galela on Halmahera (c.26,000-28,000 individuals in 1997) and on Haruku Island (c.8,600 individuals in 1997) (Heij et al. 1997). The coastal strip of North Seram held c.3,000-5,000 individuals in 1997 (Heij et al. 1997). It is probably extinct on Ambon, Ternate, Bacan and Kasiruta, while the situation on Obi is unclear. Buru still has nesting grounds, but numbers have been greatly reduced since the beginning of the 20th century.
It inhabits dense, evergreen rainforest, also occurring in degraded forest and coastal scrub, from sea-level to 2,000 m although perhaps more typically above 750 m, except when nesting. It lays and buries its eggs (which average at least 20% of adult body weight) nocturnally at communal nesting-grounds, chiefly on solar-radiated sandy beaches or other loose, unvegetated substrates. Egg-laying occurs year-round, but timing, spacing and depth of burrows and behaviour at nesting sites are influenced by lunar cycles (Baker and Dekker 2000). The birds have been recorded switching to new nesting sites when traditional sites are unsuitable (Heij 2005a).
Over-harvesting of its highly nutritious eggs is the main reason for its decline, even in some areas where traditional regulatory management is practiced. Civil unrest in the Moluccas has prevented conservation efforts over the past five years. However, on Haruku nesting success increased from the late 1990s onwards apparently because egg-collection virtually ceased owing to political unrest (Heij 2001a, Heij 2005a). Since 2003, the political situation has stabilised and uncontrolled harvesting has resumed (Heij 2005a,c), although in 2005 harvest levels had still not recovered to levels observed in the mid-1990s (Heij 2005c). Natural predation of eggs and chicks by Varanus lizards, snakes and birds of prey poses an increasing threat as colonies decline. Predation by introduced cats (Heij 2001b), dogs and pigs has also served to reduce the number of egg-laying birds (Heij 2005a). Sand extraction for local road construction and a number of development projects threaten nesting grounds, as does pollution from litter (Heij 2005b,c). Deforestation (through logging and agricultural encroachment) is presumed to be a threat in its non-breeding habitats. Severe droughts linked to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) probably cause reductions in egg production (Heij 2001a).
Conservation Actions Underway
It has been legally protected since 1979. Traditional management regimes for sustainable egg-harvesting have been observed for at least 80 years at the two main nesting grounds, reputedly without serious detriment to the species. Surveys of nesting grounds on all Moluccan islands and Misool took place between 1994 and 1997, including a biological study at the Kailolo nesting ground on Haruku island. Translocation of eggs from this site to the nearby Desa Haruku nesting ground helped to replenish the number of nesting adults returning in subsequent years (Heij 2005a). Kailolo nesting ground has been monitored continuously since 1994, involving local people (Heij 2005b). In 2006, it was to be proposed that one of the four nesting grounds in Kailolo be left untouched (Heij 2005c).
c.30 cm. Small, brown-and-grey megapode with distinctively patterned upperparts. Dark reddish mantle, greater and median covert feathers, contrastingly tipped grey. Grey underparts with striking white undertail-coverts. Variably bluish-grey to whitish bill, dark olive legs and feet. Similar spp. Dusky Scrubfowl Megapodius freycinet and Orange-footed Scrubfowl M. reinwardt are both larger and darker with prominent crests and orange-red facial skin, the former having uniform dark grey plumage, the latter uniform dark brown upperparts and orange or pinkish-red legs and feet. Voice Pairs give loud territorial duet. Feeding and burrowing birds give various noisy contact calls. Hints Rather secretive, visiting communal nesting grounds nocturnally.
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., Taylor, J.
Heij, C., Moeliker, C., Dekker, R., Saryanthi, R., Baker, G.
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Eulipoa wallacei. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/07/2020.