MALLEEFOWL – Leipoa ocellata


Malleefowl facts: Both sexes grow to be around 23.6 inches (60 centimeters) long. Males weigh 4 to 5.5 pounds (1.8 to 2.5 kilograms) while females weigh 3.3 to 4.5 pounds (1.5 to 2 kilograms). Upperparts have a distinct stripe pattern of white, black, and gray. Stripes are made up of spots that resemble eyes, which help to ward off predators.

Geographic range: Found in Australia, primarily in the southern states. Recently rediscovered in the deserts of central Australia.

Malleefowl habitat: Malleefowl live among eucalyptus (yoo-kah-LIP-tus) trees and the spiny, shrub-like acacia (uh-KAY-shah) woodlands.

What does malleefowl eat: The malleefowl feed on plants, especially seeds and fruits. About 20 percent of their diet is comprised of ground-dwelling invertebrates (animals without backbones). They’ll drink water if it’s available, but don’t require it.

Behavior and reproduction: Malleefowl are territorial and pairs will defend their incubation mound. Despite being monogamous, they are solitary (lone) birds, and males will remain near the mound while females wander. These birds rarely fly, but they roost (rest) in the safety of trees.

Malleefowl are ready to mate between the ages of two to four years, and they continue breeding until the age of twenty years or so. Males spend up to eleven months each year building the incubation mounds and tending to them. One mound is used for numerous generations. Females lay two to thirty-four eggs at intervals of two to seventeen days, depending upon the weather. The drier the season, the longer the laying time between eggs. Incubation lasts fifty-five to seventyseven days, depending on the temperature of the mound. Male malleefowl determine mound temperature by dipping their beaks into the mound. Malleefowl live to be about thirty years old. Foxes and wild cats are the primary predators, and the mortality rate of eggs is very high.

Malleefowl and people: Wheat farming encroaches upon the habitat of the malleefowl, and sheep grazing threatens the malleefowl’s food sources.

Conservation status: Classified as Vulnerable due to habitat destruction and the predation of introduced animals.