Link #141: Maleos Use Volcanic Heat for Incubating Their Eggs!

Macrocephalon Maleo
Image credit:Ariefrahman/CC BY-SA 4.0


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Link #141: Maleos Use Volcanic Heat for Incubating Their Eggs!

Macrocephalon Maleo
Image credit:Ariefrahman/CC BY-SA 4.0

Hummingbirds are prime examples of how diverse the bird kingdom is on Earth. In our last post, we explained how hummingbirds are one of the most unique birds on the planet. They can not only fly in any direction they want and hover in mid-air but also change their colour the way bubbles do.

There are many birds that possess qualities that are as unique as hummingbirds’. The best example of these types of birds is Maleos. Did you know that many Maleos actually use heat from volcanoes to incubate their eggs? This isn’t the only surprising thing about these birds either. In fact, all their nesting habits are strange and unique.

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How Do Maleos Use Volcanic Heat To Incubate Their Eggs?

A Maleo is about as large as a domestic chicken. However, its behaviour is completely different from that of a chicken. This is most evident in its nesting habits. A Maleo uses volcanic heat to incubate its eggs. When volcanic heat isn’t available, the Maleo will use heat from the sun as well.

The Maleo uses the heat from the sun or volcanoes by burying its eggs deep into the open sands of the Indonesian island that is its habitat. A Maleo usually lays only one huge egg which they bury very deep in the sand. The egg is incubated by the sharp sun beating down on the sand from above and geothermal heat escaping from the bottom.

Maleo Egg
Maleo Egg. Image credit: Arisdp/CC BY-SA 3.0

Do Maleos Take Care Of Their Young?

Maleos also have a tendency to not take care of their young. After they’ve buried their eggs into the sand, the eggs are on their own. However, Maleo chicks actually don’t need any taking care of. The reason for this is that when they hatch, they already have the ability to fly.

So, a Maleo chick first breaks through the egg and then digs itself out of the hole in the sand. It then immediately makes a break for the cover of the forest to reduce the threat of predators. The Maleo chick can either fly into the forest or scamper there as it can also move fast on its feet.

The predators that the Maleo chick is in danger from include monitor lizards, cats, wild pigs, and reticulated pythons. In addition to protecting itself from these predators, a Maleo chick is also responsible for finding its own food.

Are Maleos Endangered?

Image credit: Attila Mosztics/GFDL

Maleos are counted as an endangered species. The fact that Maleos’ nesting habits involve leaving the egg unprotected in open sands is the main reason for this along with other usual causes such as habitat loss. Because Maleo eggs are so easy to get to, locals treat it as a form of delicacy.

It’s fairly common for Maleo eggs to be dug up by humans and cooked later. However, because of increasing awareness about Maleos, a wildlife protection agency has, in collaboration with the local government, purchased a piece of land containing 40 Maleo nesting sites. This piece of land is being kept as pristine as possible to aid Maleos.

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