Megapode Egg Gathering

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In the community of Matupit, the Megapode egg serves as a primary source of food and income. Each day men from the village travel to the nesting grounds of the Megapode birds to gather the eggs. Because Matupit is the only place to find Megapode eggs, most customers come to Matupit to collect their orders. While some individuals sell their eggs at a market, it is more common for transactions to be made in the village itself. Each individual egg is priced at 2 Kina (just under US$1); however, the eggs are generally sold in groups of four (see Figure 1). The eggs are roughly 50% larger then a normal chicken egg and have a thinner shell and bigger yolk.

The Megapode birds live and nest at the base of Mount Tavurvur, one of the volcanoes in the Rabaul Caldera. They dig holes into the ash, and bury their eggs roughly two meters down until they reach the ground underneath (see Figure 2). Although the birds only lay around 3-6 eggs at a time, multiple Megapode birds may use the same hole resulting in a nest of between 10 and 15 eggs. Once the eggs are laid, the Megapodes fill in the two meter holes with the ash. When the eggs hatch, fully developed baby birds must dig their way out of the nest. In the past, the birds would roost in the tops of the coconut trees; however, as a result of the volcanic eruptions in 1994 and 2006, there are no more of these trees at the base of the volcano. Now, the birds can be found perched on top of piles of lava rock fulfilling their preference for elevated areas.