The Malleefowl is a large ground-dwelling bird and one of only three mound-building (Megapode) bird species in Australia. They are one of the few bird species to use the temperature of the surrounding environment to incubate their eggs, using large nest mounds. Malleefowl are well camouflaged and cryptic by nature, making them very difficult to spot as they blend into the surrounding environment.
AWC is protecting populations of Malleefowl and their habitat at Yookamurra, Scotia and Mt Gibson sanctuaries and at Mallee Cliffs National Park.
AWC’s ecologists monitor Malleefowl mounds annually to assess breeding activity, contributing to the national recovery effort for the species. AWC is currently undertaking a major LiDAR mapping project in partnership with the NSW Government to identify the locations of Malleefowl mounds across 200,000 hectares of high-value habitat in far-western NSW. AWC undertakes a range of land management activities to protect Malleefowl including buying land to prevent habitat loss, habitat management such as strategic fire management and weed control, along with control of feral predators and feral herbivores.
The main threat to Australia’s Malleefowl population has been habitat loss and fragmentation due to agriculture, mining, roads and inappropriate fire regimes.
Introduced predators such as foxes and feral cats, together with competition for food resources with introduced herbivores (sheep, rabbits, cattle, goats) has also contributed to the species’ decline.
With a cream-white breast and belly, Malleefowl feature a greyish head and neck with a white stripe under the eye, and distinct grey, black and white banding across their body and wings.
Malleefowl occur in semi-arid woodlands dominated by multi-stemmed ‘mallee’ Eucalypt species. Their range extends a great distance across southern Australia from Western Victoria to South West Western Australia, however due to severe habitat loss and other threats many populations across this range are contracting and are now reduced to isolated areas of remnant habitat.
Malleefowl require habitat that has been unburnt for 40-60 years. Habitats of this time-since-fire age class have sufficient leaf litter on the ground for Malleefowl to use to build their incubation mounds.
Malleefowl are omnivorous, scraping the leaf litter as they walk through the mallee woodlands to expose seeds, flowers and buds, small invertebrates and lerps.
Malleefowl are monogamous, mating for life, and lay their eggs in a nest formed in a crater in a mound of leaf litter and soil raked in from the surrounding area with the birds’ feet. The mound generates heat to incubate the eggs, and the parents regulate the temperature of the mound by scraping material on or off. When the eggs hatch, the Malleefowl chicks can leave the mound unaided.
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