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Adult mound-tending male Bruijn's Brushturkey Aepypodius bruijnii photographed for the first time ever in the wild, atop its nest mound in ridgetop cloud-forest on Mount Danai, Waigeo Island, Raja Ampat archipelago, eastern Indonesia. Copyright © Papua Expeditions/cv.Ekonexion and C. Davies

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 survival.

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 and Tropical Scrubwren Sericornis beccarii are among a host of new island records for Waigeo first obtained by 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 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.

Additional information

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 island.

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).

Important notice

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.

Related links

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.

The ascertainment that a population of Bruijn’s Brush-turkey 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 brush-turkey. 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.
Iwein Mauro