Australian Animal Archive

Australian Bilby
Macrotis lagotis
(mak-roh'-tis: "hare-eared big-ear")

Status: Endangered species

Australian Bilby - Endangered species

The Australian Bilby is one of Australia's most colourful marsupials that lies hidden beneath the burning surface of the Australian desert. The Bilby, with its long ears and silky fur, and regrettably is another of Australia's endangered species. The Bilby has survived by retreating deeper and deeper into the desert where their biggest predator, the European fox, is unable to follow.

During foraging the Bilby will bunny-like hop with their noses twitching to catch the faintest scent of seed and bulbs, their long ears swiveling for the sounds of subterranean insects.

Once they have located their prey their 'dainty' fore paws become powerful digging tools to unearth their food. The Bilby obtains sufficient moisture from its food, making finding or drinking water unnecessary making the dry, arid conditions of the Australian desert an ideal haven for these delicate creatures.

The Bilby is usually found singly or in small family 'colonies'. Several colonies occasionally gather at rich feeding sites, but generally they are nomads that shift home ranges regularly in search of new food sources. By day the Bilby sleeps in deep burrows, up to 6 feet deep, the entrance to the burrow is usually hidden beside a tussock, shrub or termite mound.

Male Bilbies are much larger than their female counterpart and breeding extends throughout the year, but can be dependant on adequate food supply. The female Bilby has eight teats in her backward opening pouch but usually only rears 2 young. Once infants leave their mothers pouch, they are cached in nursery burrows for several weeks. For the first 2 weeks the infant Bilbies have gangly, almost furless, bodies with gigantic floppy ears.


Characteristics:
About the size of a mature hare with large upright ears and an elongated pink nose. Blue-grey fur with white fur underbelly and a long black and white tail.
Habitat:
Arid and semiarid grasslands and stoney or clay open shrub lands for burrowing.
Behaviour:
Strictly nocturnal and often solitary. Family colonies consist of mated pairs, sometimes with 1 - 2 independent young.
Breeding:
All year round in favourable conditions. 1 - 2 infants are carried in the pouch about 11 weeks before being placed in a nursery burrow.
Feeding:
Omnivorous. Prefers bulbs, seeds, fruit and fungi. Will eat termites, ants and larvae if the preferred food is not available.
Voice:
Usually silent.









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