In search of the Makira Moorhen

With funding from CEPF through the East Melanesian Islands portfolio, a new search for the Makira Moorhen is being co-ordinated by Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership in conjunction with BirdLife International and the Kahua Association.

Scrubfowl in Makira

Last recorded in 1953 but reported by hunters in more recent times, the elusive Makira Moorhen is thought unlikely to have gone extinct, although any remnant population is presumed to be tiny. Whilst a recent survey did not yield any sightings, there were encouraging indications. Interviews with local hunters provided plausible evidence of 2 separate sightings of a bird that sounds like a Makira Moorhen being sighted in East Makira since 2011. These add to 3 other reports from hunters of birds in similarly wild, remote areas of the East Makira forest this century.

Automatic cameras were set in order to try and capture the elusive bird – the resulting 12,000+images so far have captured the Melanesian Scrubfowl (pictured here).

The survey team also located a nest and single egg of a Yellow-legged Pigeon – a declining and globally-threatened (Vulnerable) pigeon. This species is considered to be rare wherever it occurs (it is restricted to the Solomon Islands and Bismarck Archipelago), except for Makira where it is classed as locally uncommon. The nest was found by Reuben Tako, a volunteer on the survey. Bizarrely, the only other nest found of this species, in 2001, was by Reuben's father. Both nests were located on the ground. The continued presence of the Pigeon in the area might indicate that ground predators are not at a high density within the Makira forest – a conclusion that bodes well for the continued existence of a flightless ground-dwelling species, such as Makira Moorhen.



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