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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Amaze-wing Facts About The Maleo For Kids

Maleo facts are extremely important for all communities

The maleo, Microcephalon maleo, is a megapod endemic to Sulawesi and Indonesia. It has been long featured as an endangered species by Birdlife International and is a very well known bird. It suffers from illegal trapping, egg-collecting, and habitat loss. Like other volcanic birds, they do not use their body heat to incubate their eggs, instead, they bury them in the sand in sun-exposed beaches along the coast or in volcanically heated soils at sites further inland. The National Park area of Bogani Nani Wartabone is the area that houses the highest amount of nesting sites. Other than factors that involve humans and deforestation, one of the reasons for their declining population is the preying of maleo chicks inside nesting sites and adult maleos during laying time by wild dogs. However, the highly negatively affecting loss of forest habitat is one of the main reason why these birds are decreasing in numbers. Maleo females can lay anywhere between eight to 12 eggs around the year. Once the eggs are laid, the parents dig deep holes and bury them. When they are buried safely, the parent maleo leaves the egg as it is and never returns, leaving the maleo chick to fend for itself.

A maleo is very colourful by its appearance and attracts bird lovers from all around the world. They have a very noticeable reddish-orange beak and bare yellow facial skin. Females of this species are similar but slightly duller and smaller than a male Maleo.

They feed on fruits, ants, termites, seeds, beetles and other small invertebrates which are found in the wild around these birds.  The conservation status of a maleo has been considered as an Endangered species by IUCN. The population is between 12,000 to 21,000 resulting in the dire requirement of proceeding with the conservation of this threatened species.

If you enjoy reading about interesting animals, you can definitely check out ivory billed woodpecker and wood thrush.

Maleo Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a maleo?

The maleo (Microcephalon maleo) is a bird belonging to the class of Aves and the family of Megapodiidae which is generally found in the wild on the island of Sulawesi, located in Indonesia.

What class of animal does a maleo belong to?

A maleo is a bird that belongs to a rare species of Megapode and the class of Aves within the kingdom of Animalia. The higher classification of maleo is known as Macrocephalon.

How many maleo are there in the world?

Considered to be a species in dire need of careful conservation, there are currently only around 12,00 to 21,000 maleos present in the world. At one point in time, there were so many of these birds that they were sometimes referred to as 'black beach' collectively. The numbers have since plummeted and even with conservation efforts from organisations like ALTO (Alliance for Tompotika Conservation Organisation), they still remain endangered. There are only around 142 nests that might be threatened, out of which only 14 nests are being offered protection now. A female maleo lays around eight to 12 eggs a year but due to unsustainable harvesting of eggs, only 65% of these hatchlings survive.

There are around 4,000 to 7,000 breeding pairs of Maleos left. They breed throughout the year but the peak breeding varies depending upon the location on the island. Another cause of the significantly decreasing population is the poaching of its large and nutritious eggs.

Where does a maleo live?

Maleos inhabit tropical lowlands and hill forests. During the time of laying eggs, they will mostly be found in the open sandy areas, volcanically heated soils, or beaches that are heated by the sun for the incubation of their eggs. As a maleo female lays her egg and burys them in the sand and leaves,  maleo chicks have to survive on their own which proves to be quite difficult for them until they are about 18 to 22 months of age which eases their struggle as they are accustomed to their way of life and habitat by then.

What is a maleo's habitat?

Belonging to the order of Galliformes, maleos inhabit lowlands and hill rainforests up to an altitude of just over 3280 ft (1000 m). They nest in sandy open areas, areas with volcanic soil, and beaches directly under the sun which helps incubate their eggs deep in the heated sand or soil. Ideally, they nest around riverbanks, lakeshores and coastal areas of the island.

Who do maleos live with?

Maleos are generally found in pairs as they lay eggs and mate all year-round. They barely go solitaire. During the time of laying, a Maleo pair travels from their forest home to communal nesting grounds near hot springs or on the coasts. Maleos can mate all their life. Fundamentally, a Maleo is a communal Nester and they are mostly found in pairs all around the year. The chicks are capable of living on their own and they can fly after hatching. They are completely independent and can fly on their own.

How long does a maleo live?

As there is no scientific proof of how long a maleo can live but, it has been found out that a maleo can live up to 44 years of age. Their average lifespan is estimated by scientists to be around 16 years. However, there is no solid evidence to support this fact.

How do they reproduce?

Male and female maleos mate all year round. A young maleo is estimated to first mate at the age of two years. A female maleo can lay around eight to 12 eggs a year. When they are ready to reproduce, a maleo pair travels from their forest home to their communal nests at pre-destined nesting grounds. Both sexes take turn digging a deep hole in the sand or volcanic soil in which a single large egg is laid and covered with sand or soil. A maleo's egg is five times the size of a chicken egg and one of the largest of all megapodes weighing around 4.9-9.5 oz (140-270 g). The temperature of incubation is around 90-97 F (32-36 C). It takes the egg around 60 to 80 days to hatch.

A female maleo in captivity has been observed to stop eating during the laying an egg. After the pair digs the hole and buries the egg, they tend to stay around for a very short period of time and return back to their forest home leaving the chick alone to survive. There is no specific time for the pair to lay an egg as they lay any time of the year.

What is their conservation status?

The maleo, Macrocephalon maleo, has been identified as an 'Endangered species by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). This is their second-highest category of concern under Critically Endangered. As it is endemic to Sulawesi and Buton island of Indonesia, it has been fully protected by Indonesian law since 1972. Killing, hunting, capturing or harassing Maleo adults or eggs is subject to a fine of up to 40 million rupiah. There are still accounts of individuals illegally acquiring maleo eggs but organisations such as ATLO and the Government of Indonesia is doing their best to protect these threatened birds.

Maleo Fun Facts

What does a maleo look like?

A maleo is a beautiful bird. Most of the bird is black with a medium-long neck and medium-length tail spreading vertically. The underparts are white with a breast colored partially salmon and partially pink. Black is the color of the legs with a stout and pale-colored bill. They have a bare bony casque at the top of the head.

Maleo, Macrocephalon maleo, is a species endemic to the island of Sulawesi and is known for nesting in beach areas.

How cute are they?

These birds are much more beautiful than cute. Maleo chicks are comparatively cuter than adult maleos as they have an apparently innocent face posture.

How do they communicate?

Whilst they are at their nesting grounds, different sounds can be heard like a loud braying, a rolling, a turkey like a gobble and a duck-like quacking.

How big is a maleo?

A maleo is 55-60 cm (22-24 in) long. They are large as compared to different birds. They are one and a half times the size of a Hawaiian petrel and almost the size of a chicken.

How fast can a maleo run?

The average speed of a grown Maleo is a surprising 11.8-13 mph (19-21 kph).

How much does a maleo weigh?

An average maleo weighs around 3.5 lb (1.6 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Females and males of this species are simply referred to as male and female maleos.

What would you call a baby maleo?

They are generally referred to as Megapode chicks and there is no such name prescribed for a baby maleo.

What do they eat?

A maleo feeds upon seeds, beetles, fruits, ants, beetles and other small invertebrates.

Are they dangerous?

They are not dangerous and have been observed to be quite friendly with humans.

Would they make a good pet?

As the maleo species is endangered, it is next to impossible to keep one as a pet.

Did you know...

The maleo bird is the only member of the monotypic genus Macrocephalon and they are only found in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Maleo is the Sulawesi's pride and used to be found everywhere in Sulawesi before becoming critically threatened.

Endemic to Sulawesi, maleo eggs have been taken from nesting grounds for years as maleo eggs are considered a delicacy in many local communities, which is another reason these nesting grounds need protecting.

The Wildlife Conservation Society is protecting this black and white Sulawesi bird from threats both from nature, other creatures from the forests, and humans. The Wildlife Conservation Society is currently actively protecting around three maleo nesting grounds and helping any other nest from the other 14 endangered nesting grounds. In 2009, The Wildlife Conservation Society and a few other external donors purchased a beach to protect the nesting areas of this species.

The hatchlings start flying and preying on small insects only hours after they hatch. They are considered as one of the most advanced birds at the time of hatching as they do everything on their own without any parental care.

What does maleo mean?

The maleo is a megapode of Sulawesi. 'Macro' means 'large' and 'cephalon' means 'head'.

What is a volcano bird?

Volcano birds are one of the oldest living group of birds on the planet. They are called 'megapodes'. They are vaguely turkey-like in appearance. The incubation of their eggs is done by external heat like the heat of the sun and volcanic soils, and so they bury their large eggs in the soil or sand.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including towhee, or mountain bluebird.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our maleo coloring pages.

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