Tongan megapode

They use heat from decomposing matter to keep their eggs warm, no sitting required!

Walter Lawry Buller

Tongan megapode


They use heat from decomposing matter to keep their eggs warm, no sitting required!

Population 250 – 1,000

A remarkable bird native to the islands of Tonga. This bird is notable for its unique reproductive behavior and distinctive appearance. Unlike many other birds, the Tongan Megapode does not incubate its eggs with body heat. Instead, it buries them in warm sand or soil, relying on external heat sources to hatch them.

The Tongan Megapode is a medium-sized bird with a somewhat stocky build. Its plumage is primarily dark brown or black, which helps it blend into the forest floor. The bird has strong legs and feet, which are well-adapted for digging. It also has a relatively short tail and a robust beak, both of which aid in its foraging activities. The legs are particularly powerful, allowing the bird to dig large holes in which to bury its eggs.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Tongan Megapode is its nesting behavior. The female megapode lays her eggs in burrows dug into warm sand or soil, often near geothermal areas or in sunlit patches where the ground is naturally heated. These burrows can be quite deep, providing a stable temperature for the eggs to incubate. Once the eggs are buried, the parents do not need to provide further care, as the ambient heat will ensure the eggs hatch successfully. This unique adaptation allows the megapode to reproduce without the need for constant incubation.

The Tongan Megapode is generally a shy and elusive bird, often heard rather than seen. It has a distinctive call, a series of loud, rhythmic clucks that can be heard echoing through the forest. These calls are used for communication between individuals, especially during the breeding season. The bird is mostly active during the early morning and late afternoon, spending the hottest parts of the day resting in the shade.


Population est.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No