Sula Scrubfowl Megapodius bernsteinii


Justification of Red List Category
This species was recently uplisted to Vulnerable following evidence of severe declines, coupled with observations of extensive habitat loss and degradation and very high hunting pressure, which are suspected to be driving a rapid overall decline in its population. It may be uplisted again in the future if further evidence shows that its status has worsened.

Population justification
There were thought to be some 7,000 birds in the Banggai Islands, mostly on Peleng, and as many as 38,000 (22,500-54,000) individuals on Taliabu, but these populations are suspected to be undergoing rapid declines, thus its total population is conservatively placed in the band for 10,000-19,999 mature individuals. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
This species is known to be suffering extensive habitat loss and degradation and intensive hunting pressure (Rheindt 2010). Furthermore, there is evidence of declines on Taliabu, Peleng and associated islets, including a substantial fall in encounter rates on Taliabu (Rheindt 2010) compared with work conducted in 1991 (Davidson et al. 1991). Its population is thus suspected to be undergoing at least a rapid decline.

Distribution and population

Megapodius bernsteini is restricted to the Banggai and Sula Islands Endemic Bird Area, Indonesia. There were thought to be some 7,000 birds in the Banggai Islands, mostly on Peleng, and as many as 38,000 (22,500-54,000) on Taliabu (BirdLife International 2001), but these populations are suspected to be undergoing rapid declines. The results of fieldwork on Taliabu in 2009 (Rheindt 2010) indicate that encounter rates had fallen substantially since fieldwork conducted in 1991 (Davidson et al. 1991), and dramatic declines over the last decade have been reported from eastern Peleng (M. Indrawan per Rheindt 2010).


It inhabits lowland forest, particularly in coastal areas, and dense lowland scrub fringing farmland. Nesting mounds are visited daily by monogamous pairs.


This species is experiencing declines and local extinctions owing to habitat loss (through logging and clearance for land conversion), exploitation (collection of eggs and hunting of adults) and introduced animals (cats and dogs as predators, and feral domestic chickens as competitors) (BirdLife International 2001, Rheindt 2010). Since the 1990s, there has been extensive logging on Taliabu, leading to further clearance for agriculture and habitat degradation along logging roads (Rheindt 2010). In 2009, new areas were reportedly being assessed for conversion to agriculture. Undisturbed habitat within the species's preferred elevation range on Taliabu has been reduced to tiny fragments; however, observations also suggest that the species can persist in degraded habitats (Rheindt 2010, C. Gooddie in litt. 2011). During fieldwork on Taliabu in 2009, it was found that the species and its eggs are still intensively targeted for consumption (Rheindt 2010); likewise it is also hunted on Peleng (C. Gooddie in litt. 2011). The species may be more secure on many of the small, rarely-visited offshore islets that it inhabits (BirdLife International 2001); however, fishermen from northern Taliabu, interviewed in 2009, report that the species has declined steeply on its tiny nesting islands off the north coast (e.g., Samada Besar), where it was formerly common (Rheindt 2010).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
None are known.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Reassess the population size, including a survey of offshore islets. Quantify the impact of hunting and the taking of eggs. Quantify the impact of introduced and feral predators and competitors. Regularly monitor the population at selected sites. Research its relative abundance in different habitats. Implement control measures against introduced animals if deemed appropriate. Protect areas of suitable habitat. Raise awareness of the species and its status in an effort to reduce hunting and nest-robbing.


c.35 cm. Typical megapode with very short tail and proportionately quite long neck and legs. Fairly uniform plumage (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Chestnut lower back, rufous lower breast and belly; face with pink around eye, in turn surrounded by grey; legs and feet orange or red. Similar spp Differs from M. cummingii in having underparts similar to upperparts (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Mahood, S., Taylor, J.

Gooddie, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Megapodius bernsteinii. Downloaded from on 14/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 14/07/2020.