Tag Archives: Megapodius

Saca, Sasa and Yasaca

P. H. Bahr in the year 1912 quotes a Dr. B. Glanvill Corney, at that time Chief Medical Officer in the Fiji Islands.:  

There is, or was until eight or ten years ago, a bird in the interior and northern coast of Vitilevu called the ‘Sasa’; described as having speckled plumage and running along the ground among reeds, cane-brakes, and undergrowth. … The Sasa did not fly, and seems to have been a mound-builder. I once met with some dogs in a remote mountain village that the natives had specially trained to hunt the Sasa, which they described as Koli dankata sasa, i. e. Sasa-catching dogs; but I never succeeded in seeing a Sasa, nor did my friend Mr. Frank R. S. Baxendale, who, as Assistant Resident Commissioner in the hill districts, lived for more than a year in the Sasa country. His successor, Mr. Georgius Wright, however, had several living specimens in his possession for some time, and told me that he considered they were Megapodes of the same or of an allied species to those met with in the island of Ninafou [Niuafo’ou] (Boscawen Island) and in Samoa. Some natives linkened them to Guinea-fowl, but said they were not so large as the latter, and that they laid a single egg. Between the years 1876 and 1905 they were still comparatively common and well known in the locality mentioned (where there are only a very few Europeans).” [1]


What follows is an account by Rollo H. Beck, an American ornithologist, who quotes some notes that he received by a Mr. G. T. Barker on June 5, 1925, during a stay on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji.: 

Saca Megapode

On the Tova Estate (Viti Levu Bay) one day, as I was riding toward the Wainibaka River, I heard a zooming noise on the rocks at my right. I dismounted to ascertain, if possible, what it was, as the place which had no trees, ws such an unusual one for a pigeon. The note, too, was different, having a more vibrant tone.
Grawling twenty feet along a runway but keeping myself hidden I came upon an abandoned clearing covered with short grass. The bird was about tne yards away. It ws slightly smaller than an English game rooster, had an aggressive head with yellow beak, and a stumpy tail. The coloring which was the same on the head as on the body was a mixed yellow, approaching red, and dingy black.
The bird continued its calling for a few minutes, and was answered from the far end of the clearing. Suddenly it took alarm, and as it flew out of the clearing I saw that under the rudimentary wings there were no yellow feathers. The wings had no long feathers made a whirring sound when the birds flew. I also noticed that its legs were stout, of yellow color, and that the foot had three toes. On questioning the natives, I was told that about sixty years ago there was a great area of grass country in that part, owing probably to a denser population, and also to the fact that the people were more industrious. At that time they used to hunt the bird with dogs and would secure up to fifty in a day. Even up to the coming of the mongoose, hese birds were still hunted, but owing to the spreading of the reeds over the country the catch became small.
The birds nested, generally, under the shelter of the dead leaves of the tree fern, never out in the open, and the birds used to take turns sitting on the nest. The natives described the eggs as being white, quite round, generally one, but on rare occasions, two in a nest. They used to hunt for the eggs, and when all hands were out, as many as a hundred a day would be secured. The eggs were hatched under hens in the village, but the saca always went back to the grass and would not remain in the town.
About two years after I had seen the bird, a dependable native who had hunted the birds in his youth, told me that he had seen a pair about two miles away from The place where I had observed them. Twenty was the largest number that had been observed in one flock.
The natives said that the flesh of the saca was dark, and always lean. Its wings seem to have been of some use for the bird is called in that part “the bird that lands on eight hillocks before being cought.”
The annual rainfall in that region averages ninety inches.
” [2]

In my humble opinion this whole description, except for the nesting behaviour, sounds a lot like the description of a species of megapode (Megapodius sp.). 


This bird I have never seen, but from all accounts it differs from the saca. First it was called “Nasataudrau”, literally, “in hundreds”, meaning that a flock would be of about one hundred. It was said of them hat they buried their eggs for the sun to hatch out.

Personally, I am doubtful if this bird ever existed in Fiji. I remember of asking a Sabeto Chief in the year 1890 if he had ever seen one – Sabeto, to the Segatoka River, being the region where the ordinary “saca” was most plentiful. This chief was then a man over sixty years old; now add on the thirty-five years since that time – ninety five years ago, and he had never seen yasaca. He had only heard the trdition in his youth.
I am inclined to believe that the natives of this region brought the tale whith them from the Solomon Islands, where megapodes still are found. See, “A Naturalist Amongst the Head Hunters” by Woodward. Mr. A. Barker has a copy of this book. There is a remarkable similarity of language between that part of the Solomons and Fiji, hence the tradition.
” [2][4]


It is now well known that the Fiji Islands indeed were inhabited by at least two species of megapode, the Consumed Scrubfowl (Megapodius alimentum Steadman) and the Viti Levu Megapodius (Megapodius amissus Worthy). [3]

It is not really known when exactly these species disappeared; the abovementioned accounts, however, show that at least one of the species survived well into quite modern times.



[1] P. H. Bahr: On a Journey to the Fiji Islands, with Notes on the present Status of their Avifauna, made during a Year’s Stay in the Group, 1910-1911. The Ibis 9(6): 282-313. 1912
[2] Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck. Vol. 2, Dec. 1923 – Aug. 1925
[3] T. H. Worthy: The fossil megapodes (Aves: Megapodiidae) of Fiji with descriptions of a new genus and two new species. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 30(4): 337-364. 2000
[4] Danke Hr. Antonius, für den Hinweis, damit liegen Sie natürlich vollkommen richtig! 🙂


edited: 31.01.2022