The megapode, also called the Australian incubator bird, is a medium-to-large sized, chicken-like bird with a small head, heavy legs, and big feet with sharp claws. The name literally means large foot. They typically live in wooded areas, and are browsers—herbivores that eat leaves and the fruit of shrubs. There are 20 living species of the bird. Found in Oceania—a geographical region including Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding Pacific islands), Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia—their eggs are considered a delicacy. The egg is twice the size of a chicken egg, weighs about half a pound, and the yolk is about four times bigger, making up 50-70% of the egg’s weight. The megapode itself weighs about 3.5 to 4 pounds.
The male megapode builds the nest—a massive nest as much as 50’ across and 20’ high—out of decaying vegetation, like a huge mulch pile.
The female has only two jobs: approving the nest and laying eggs. She digs around in the nest and if it meets with her approval, good for her mate. But if it doesn’t, he builds a new one. Keep in mind the size of the nest in relationship to the size of the bird; this is major craftsmanship. Once the nest is approved, the female will lay 25 to 30 eggs, one egg every 3 days for up to 7 months. The shell is very thick with pores that are shaped like ice cream cones. Once the eggs are laid, she leaves.
The man of the nest now takes over responsibility for the nest and eggs. He tends his nest by adding or removing litter to regulate the internal heat while the eggs develop, keeping the temperature at about 91° F and 99.5% humidity. If the temperature varies much more than 1°, the chicks will die. If it gets too dry, the chicks will die. So much pressure! So each day he digs in the nest and checks the temperature and humidity. If the mound is too hot, too cold, or too dry, he goes to work to cool it off or warm it up or increase the humidity. Once the chicks are hatched, his work is done.
In the egg, as the chicks grow, it eventually can’t get enough air and begins to scrape off the inside of the egg to make the ice-cream-cone-shaped air holes bigger. Unlike other chicks, a megapode chick does not have an eggtooth, the sharp, temporary projection at the end of the beak to chip away at the eggshell until it is able to breathe and ultimately break free. Instead, the chick uses its powerful claws, and once free from the shell, lays on its back, tunneling its way through the sand and vegetable matter to the surface of the mound. It does this by packing the sticks and dirt that fall on its chest under its wings, repeating this for up to three days, until it has reached the surface.
Chicks hatch fully feathered, ready and able to fly, and to live independently of their parents because, well, they’ve already left. So they start to search for and find food. They raise themselves to maturity with no training, and go on to either build a nest or make eggs for the next generation.
So did the megapode evolve or was there some master plan to their design and very specific habits? Let’s see.
How does the female know if the nest is just right? Why is she not involved in caring for the eggs like most other bird species?
How does the male know how to build this complicated nest, and have the ability and knowledge to keep the temperature and humidity precisely controlled?
How were the air vents shaped like ice cream cones with the tip pointing toward the chick? And how does the chick know to scrape at these vents to get more air as it chips away to finally hatch out of the shell?
How does the chick know to dig out of the nest, which way to dig, and how to pack the debris beneath it? How does it know to hunt for food and catch it? Then the next year, the cycle begins again with the mature chicks taking on their roles with no training.
How could all of this be a product of mindless, random, accidental, purposeless chance over a massive time period? These physical attributes, instincts, skills, and knowledge had to be designed and instilled in these birds by a Creator or the whole species would have been extinct with the first pair of birds. Only God, the Creator, could do this.
Sources: Adapted from materials by Dr. Jobe Martin D.M.D., TH.M.; wikipedia.org/wiki/Megapode; beautyofbirds.com/megapodes