The orange-footed scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt) has become a happy camper in the suburbs of Darwin, driving many a mulch-loving gardener to distraction. The Latin name Megapodius refers of course to “big feet” and those long robust claws and powerful orange legs can move mulch and soil at an amazing rate. Tidy minded gardeners wake up to find their carefully curated mulch strewn everywhere. Over our back fence is a house-block that is effectively a reserve for Megapodius and a mound about 12m in diameter and a bit over a meter high is a nest mound shared by a number of Megapodius couples. They excavate a hole, lay 6-12 eggs and back fill the hole with soil and leaves. The job of incubation is done by heat generated as the vegetation breaks down into compost. The chicks are hatched tough and fully-fledged they excavate their way out, with a little help from parents. The scrub fowl have a very loud call — a number of raucus monotonal shrieks followed by a phrase which our neighbourhood agrees says clearly “fucken hell!”. We’ve listened to them in other places around Darwin, and elsewhere the call couldn’t be construed as “fucken hell”. I’m not sure why they are so cheesed off around our way. They seem to have it pretty good really. They’re found in lowland rainforests and dry jungles of parts of the Kimberleys, the Top End and North Queensland. One of my photos shows a big foot digging down on top of the mound just this week.

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