Endangered Bruijn's Brushturkey
photographed for the first time in the wild
on a PE exploratory bird tour
Released July 2, 2007
Bird-watchers on a Papua Expeditions exploratory bird
tour to Mount Danai on the Indonesian island of Waigeo have taken the
first photographs in the wild of the endemic Bruijn's Brushturkey Aepypodius
bruijnii, a unique species of megapode which remained entirely unknown
in the living world during more than 120 years between its formal description
from trade skins in 1880 and its field discovery by PE birder-in-residence
Iwein Mauro on nearby Mount Nok in May 2002.
Early April 2007 PE birders-in-residence Iwein Mauro
and Zeth Wonggor, and British bird-watcher Charles Davies watched a fine
adult male brushturkey persistently displaying from atop its nest mound
just four meters away from their hide in ridgetop cloud-forest on Mount
Danai. The group also repeatedly observed a soliciting female visiting
the mound while the male was away. The accompanying image above shows
the adult mound-tending male in display condition, with brownish facial
skin, grotesquely enlarged bright pink comb and nape shield, both densely
covered with wart-like papilla, and an apparently double flesh-colored
inflated pendulous wattle on the foreneck.
Iwein Mauro, who led the tour and is a member of the
IUCN SSC/WPA Megapode Specialist Group for the period 2005-2008, said:
'The ascertainment that a population of Bruijn’s Brushturkey exists
on Mount Danai is perhaps the single-most significant step forward in
our understanding of the species’ conservation status and needs.
Mount Danai alone is believed to contain 60 % of cloud-forest habitat
on Waigeo and up to 65 % of the world population of this remarkable brushturkey.
Moreover, it is a virtually untouched, trackless wilderness area that
is apparently rarely, if ever, visited by local communities even. Clearly,
the area is of utmost importance to the long-term survival of this species
as well as other Waigeo and regionally endemic birdlife.'
Bruijn’s Brushturkey is currently treated as Vulnerable
but upgrading to Endangered in accordance with the IUCN Red List categories
and criteria has recently been formally proposed by Mauro (2006). Habitat
destruction as a consequence of wild fires and logging on Waigeo has been
identified as the major factor threatening the species’ long-term
In addition to securing the first photographs in the
wild of Bruijn's Brushturkey, the birding group confirmed the presence
on Mount Danai of all Waigeo endemic and near-endemic birdlife, plus a
host of new island records already obtained by Mauro on nearby Mounts
Nok and Sau Lal in 2002. Among the latter category are healthy populations
of Wallace's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles wallacii and Tropical
Scrubwren Sericornis beccarii, whose exact taxonomic affinities
still require further elucidation.
NOVEL BIRDS FROM WAIGEO ISLAND
Wallace's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles wallacii (left) and Tropical
Scrubwren Sericornis beccarii (middle and right) are among a
host of new island records for Waigeo Island first obtained by PE resident
birder Iwein Mauro on Mounts Nok and Sau Lal in 2002, and have now also
been observed on Mount Danai. Copyright © Papua Expeditions/cv.Ekonexion
and Iwein Mauro.
Bruijn’s Brushturkey Aepypodius bruijnii
belongs to the megapodes Megapodiidae, a family renowned for
its exceptional incubation strategy, exploiting environmental heat sources
and exhibiting no parental care. The species builds heaps of leaf litter
and other organic material, called ‘mounds’, in which the
heat produced by microbial decomposition incubates the eggs.
Named in 1880 in honor of the immortal Dutch merchant
of Ternate, A. A. Bruijn — a dealer in virtually every product the
Moluccas and Vogelkop region had to offer, including natural history specimens
— Bruijn’s Brushturkey arguably was the most sought-after
bird species of the entire New Guinea faunal region. Indeed, it were native
collectors in the service of the ‘King of Ternate’ (as Bruijn
was nicknamed during the height of his entrepreneurship) that stood at
the origin of the collection of likely all but one of a staggering twenty-four
historical museum specimens known from this brushturkey. However, despite
more than fifteen subsequent ornithological expeditions and reconnaissance
visits actively searching for this megapode, it managed to remain entirely
unknown in the living world during the more than 120 years that elapsed
in between its formal description and its ultimate field discovery on
Mount Nok in May 2002 by Mauro.
Bruijn’s Brushturkey is endemic to the island of
Waigeo in the Raja Ampat group of eastern Indonesia, where it nests only
on the highest ridges and peaks, along an ecological gradient above 620
m elevation where a structurally distinctive, wind-sheared and possibly
locally edaphically controlled, stunted cloud-forest thrives on infertile
substrates. The species’ breeding habitat comprises just 60 square
kilometers or 1.9 % of the island’s area and is contained within
six locations, three of which are now confirmed to support breeding populations.
The global population of Bruijn’s Brushturkey has been estimated
at 349 mound-owning males or 977 mature individuals, with 98 % of the
population restricted to just three locations in the eastern part of the
Learn more about this unique megapode and its plight
for survival through the following resources available online:
Mauro, I. (2004). The
field discovery, ecology, monitoring and conservation of an enigma: Bruijn's
Brush-turkey Aepypodius bruijnii. Final report to Van Tienhoven
Foundation for International Nature Protection and WPA/BirdLife/SSC Megapode
Specialist Group (in PDF-format, from www.vantienhovenfoundation.com).
Mauro, I. (2005). Field discovery, mound characteristics, bare parts, vocalisations
and behaviour of Bruijn’s Brush-turkey, Aepypodius bruijnii. Emu 105:273-281. doi: 10.1071/MU04052 (from www.publish.csiro.au).
Mauro, I. (2006). Habitat,
microdistribution and conservation status of the enigmatic Bruijn’s
Brush-turkey Aepypodius bruijnii. Bird Conservation International
16:279-292. doi: 10.1017/S0959270906000372 (from journals.cambridge.org).
The management of Papua Expeditions/cv.Ekonexion feels
compelled to forewarn the general public that British national Charles
Davies is not employed by or whatsoever affiliated to Papua Expeditions/cv.Ekonexion,
and therefore evidently is not entitled to publicly represent Papua Expeditions/cv.Ekonexion,
and/or issue statements on behalf of Papua Expeditions/cv.Ekonexion. Any
public statements made and/or information disclosed by Mr. Davies regarding
the PE exploratory bird tour on which the first photographs of Bruijn's
Brushturkey were secured, strictly reflect his own personal insights,
points of view, and interests.
Read on about the birdlife
of Waigeo Island.
Read on about our Community
Conservation and Ecotourism Agreement for the Orobiai River catchment
on Waigeo Island.
Read on about our short birding
break to Waigeo Island.
Read on about our prolonged birding
expeditions visiting Waigeo Island.