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Distribution, seasonal use, and predation of incubation mounds of Orange-footed Scrubfowl on Komodo Island, Indonesia
journal contributionposted on 2009-06-01, 00:00 authored by M J Imansyah, Tim Jessop, J Sumner, D Purwandana, A Ariefiandy, A Seno
Megapodes are unique in using only heat from the environment, rather than body heat, to incubate their eggs as well as the precocious independence of their chicks on hatching. Of 22 recognized species of megapodes, 9 are listed as threatened due to factors including habitat loss and fragmentation, and predation on eggs and chicks. Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt) are conspicuous components of the Oriental/Austral avifauna that inhabit the monsoon forests of the Lesser Sunda chain of islands in Indonesia. We examined the abundance, patterns of distribution, physical characteristics, seasonal activity, and predation risk of incubation mounds of Orange-footed Scrubfowl on Komodo Island in eastern Indonesia. We surveyed 13 valleys on Komodo Island from April 2002 to January 2005 and located 113 tended and 107 untended incubation mounds. Densities of scrubfowl mounds in our study were similar to that reported by investigators during the 1970s, suggesting little change in the scrubfowl population since then. Most scrubfowl mounds were on sandy or loamy soils in open monsoon forest with little overhead shade, and placement of mounds in such areas may ensure adequate temperatures for egg incubation. Although some mounds were tended during all months, mound use peaked during the late wet season in March. During the dry season (April-November), only a few mounds were tended. Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) and wild pigs (Sus scrofa) were the primary predators of scrubfowl eggs, with no indication of egg predation by humans. The valley with the largest number of untended mounds in our study also had the largest number of active Komodo dragon nests. This suggests an effect of Komodo dragons on scrubfowl numbers, but additional study is needed.