email a friend
printable version
Sula Scrubfowl Megapodius bernsteinii
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

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.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

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).

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).

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.

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 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.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Davidson, P.; Stones, A.; Lucking, R.; Bean, N.; van Balen, B.; Raharjaningtrah, W.; Banjaransari, H. 1991. University of East Anglia Taliabu Expedition 1991: Preliminary Report.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Rheindt, F. E. 2010. New biogeographic records for the avifauna of Taliabu (Sula Islands, Indonesia), with preliminary documentation of two previously undiscovered taxa. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 130(1): 33-51.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

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

Gooddie, C.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Megapodius bernsteinii. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Megapodiidae (Megapodes)
Species name author Schlegel, 1866
Population size 10000-19999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 4,300 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species