The Maleo, Macrocephalon maleo, is a medium-sized (approximately 55cm long) blackish megapode with bare yellow facial skin, reddish-brown iris, reddish-orange beak and rosy salmon underparts. The crown is ornamented with a black helmet casque. The greyish blue feet have four long sharp claws, separated by a membranous web. The sexes are almost similar with a slightly smaller and duller female.
The only member of the monotypic genus Macrocephalon, the Maleo is endemic to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. It is found in the tropical lowland and hill forests, but nests in the open sandy areas, volcanic soils or beaches that are heated by the sun or geothermal for incubation. (There are also megapode species that use fermenting compost to incubate their eggs.)
The Maleo's egg is large, about five times of the domestic chicken's. The female lays and covers each egg in a deep hole in the sand and allows the incubation to take place through solar or volcanic heating. After the eggs hatch, the young birds work their way up through the sand and hide in the forest. The young birds are able to fly and are totally independent. They must find food and defend themselves from predators such as lizards, pythons, wild pigs or cats.
The Maleo is monogamous, and members of a pair stay close to each other all the time. Its diet consists mainly of fruits, seeds, ants, termites, beetles and other small invertebrates.
Since 1972, this species has been protected by the Indonesian government. Due to ongoing habitat loss, limited range, high chick mortality rates and overhunting in some areas, the Maleo is evaluated as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed on Appendix I of CITES.
The Alliance for Tompotika Conservation works with communities in Sulawesi to educate locals about the Maleo's endangered status and prevent the harvesting of eggs. The eggs are not a staple food source, but are a popular delicacy.