Megapode Bird Nesting - Arnavon Islands

Rudy and Lionel came zooming up to the stern in the longboat to pick us up for the afternoon’s adventure. Although the main goal of the center is to protect the turtle nesting beach, they also have started monitoring the nearby nesting areas for a few flocks of Megapodes.

After watching documentaries about these ground-slinging, nest-digging birds, I was anxious to see them for myself. The four of us hopped into the boat, and we were off!

Rudy’s experience in maneuvering the boat was evident right away as we barely felt the spray of the saltwater, even with the sea swell. Fifteen minutes later we came upon a tiny idyllic island and stepped ashore.

It was just a short walk into the shade of the bush, and then we saw a field of sandy soil bombarded with freshly-dugout holes, like a mine field. Even though we tiptoed quietly, the shy birds who were busy at work skittered away. I barely got a glimpse of their black feathers before they disappeared into the shadows.

Lots of Megapode nests in this area
I was left looking down at an expanse of sifted sand which was patterned with scattered four-toed footprints. The holes themselves must have been a meter deep. It was the warmth of the ground below that the megapode mothers were after. A natural incubator. Once the eggs were laid, the mothers would go on their merry way - not even coming back to greet the young when they hatched. Nature’s ultimate hands-off parenting approach.

Megapode nesting area
Digging for eggs

Interestingly, the green sea turtle hatchlings we’d guided to the water just a few days earlier were left to fend for themselves, too. And to think, we humans struggle not to OVER parent our own offspring!

It leaves me wondering why certain species nurture and protect their young so fiercely, while others don’t even stick around to welcome them into the world! Even the crocodiles, who lay eggs in this same neck of the woods, actually carry their young gingerly in their mouths to bring them to water after they hatch! Talk about OVER parenting!

Megapode Egg
Well, as I plan our upcoming science studies and realize we are learning about life cycles and reproduction, I realize this visit to the Arnavon Reserve is perfectly timed for our curriculum. I couldn’t have planned it any better if I’d have tried. We’ll be talking about incubation/gestation periods, egg structures, and all this fun stuff just next week! What a well of background knowledge we’ll have to draw from!

Quick Snorkel new Megapode Island
Kids snorkeling off Megapode island with giant clam


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