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Malleefowl

A Malleefowl on the leafy woodland floor near its mound. [Photographed by Peter Rowland]
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Scientific Name: Leipoa ocellata

Size: 60 cm

What does it look like?

The Malleefowl is a large and unmistakable ground-dwelling bird. The head and neck are grey, becoming more cream on the belly, and with a dark blackish stripe between the throat and breast. The wings and remaining upperparts are mottled and barred with black, grey, brown and cream. 

Where is it found?

This species occurs west of the Great Dividing range in New South Wales, south into north-western Victoria and west through southern South Australia to the west of Western Australia.

What are its habitats & habits?

The adult female Malleefowl lays its eggs in a large mound of rotting vegetation and other ground matter in semi-arid areas (including mallee woodlands). The male builds several mounds and the female selects the one she wants to lay her eggs in, burying them after she does so. The male returns regularly to the mound to monitor the temperature of the mound and consequently adding or removing material to maintain the desired temperature of around 33°C. The chicks leave the mound unaided after hatching (around 50 days after being laid) and the same mound is used in successive years. The pale grey legs are powerful and used for raking the ground litter and vegetation in search of the seeds, flowers and some invertebrates that constitute its diet, and for creating and maintaining the mound. 

Interesting facts

The Malleefowl is Australia’s only threatened megapode species. Predominantly due to habitat loss, predation by feral animals, competition for habitat and fire. Unlike other megapodes, it inhabits mallee and similarly dry, open forests on sandy soils. The generic name of this species (Leipoa) means ‘egg leaver’.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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