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A photo of a Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt)
Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Megapodius reinwardt

The orange-footed scrubfowl, known scientifically as Megapodius reinwardt, is a bird reminiscent of a domestic chicken in size. It boasts a dark plumage contrasted by striking orange legs and is adorned with a distinctive pointed crest at the back of its head.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the orange-footed scrubfowl, look for its robust orange legs and the unique crest on its head. Its overall dark coloration may blend with the forest floor, but these features stand out.

Habitat

This terrestrial bird is quite adaptable, utilizing a variety of forest and scrub habitats. It has also shown an impressive ability to colonize many small islands within its range.

Distribution

The orange-footed scrubfowl is native to a broad area, including the Lesser Sunda Islands, southern New Guinea, and northern Australia. It is particularly prolific in suburban gardens in Darwin, where it is colloquially referred to as a bush chook, bush chicken, or bush turkey.

Behaviour

The orange-footed scrubfowl is known for its terrestrial lifestyle, often seen foraging on the forest floor.

Breeding

Unique among birds, the orange-footed scrubfowl constructs large mounds of sand, leaf litter, and other debris for nesting. These mounds are not mere nests but incubators, where the heat from decomposing organic material helps to incubate the eggs. These impressive structures can reach heights of 4.5 meters and diameters of 9 meters, with maintenance occurring throughout the year.

Similar Species

The taxonomy of the orange-footed scrubfowl reveals five subspecies, some of which are sometimes considered full species or subspecies of other megapodes. For example, the Tanimbar scrubfowl (Megapodius tenimberensis) and the dusky megapode have been associated with these subspecies.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the orange-footed scrubfowl consists of seeds, fallen fruit, and terrestrial invertebrates, which it forages from the forest floor.

Conservation status

The species is currently classified as Least Concern, indicating stable populations across its range.

In the field, one may also hear the local names given to this bird by the indigenous peoples, such as 'kurrukurldanj' by the Kunwinjku people of west Arnhem Land. This reflects the bird's integration into the local culture and language.

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