Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 May 2010
From October 1991 to January 1993, the Polynesian Megapode or Malau Megapodius pritchardii on the island Niuafo'ou, Kingdom of Tonga, was studied as part of a conservation project. The reproductive population was estimated at 188–235 pairs. Owing to an apparent lack of juveniles, the total population is not expected to be much larger. Compared to previous assessments this estimate gives evidence for a serious decline, but the methodologies used in all estimates differ considerably. However, a decline is also indicated by the fact that two of the 11 communal nesting grounds have been abandoned since 1979, while no new sites have been reported. Additionally, the Malau has disappeared from the vicinity of villages during the last 15 years. On a cat-free and undisturbed islet in the crater lake the density of Malaus is 1.29 pairs per ha. In other areas, where access for humans, dogs and cats was easy, the density of the Malau was only 0.16 pairs per ha. The main reason for the decline isover-harvesting of eggs by the local people. Habitat destruction or degradation are not responsible, and rats and domestic pigs seem to have no negative influence.