There is acutally 2 types of Bilbys in Australia
(Macrotis lagotis lagotis)
(Macrotis lagotis sagitta)
They are a type of Bandicoot (a marsupial), and sometimes are referred to as a
"rabbit-eared Bandicoot", "Dalgyte", "Pinkie",
"Greater Bilby" The Lesser Bilby is extinct
They are a rabbit size marsupial with large ears (they have great hearing, and the ears also allow the bilby to lose heat, a sort of "thermoregulation") and their fur is soft grey with a bluish tinge. A long pointed snout and a large black and white tail with a white brush tip makes this a striking looking animal
Strong claws enables this marsupial to burrow quickly through sandy soil and the Bilbys pouch faces backwards.
Size wise they range from 30 to 60 cm in length with roughly a 20cm tail. The female is smaller than the male, and the species tends to be very solitary
As mentioned earlier the Bilby has a great sense of hearing, it also relies heavily on its sense of smell, but their downfall is poor eyesight, that is why it ventures out of its burrow mostly at night time. Night is also a lot cooler for the Bilby in the desert.
LOCATION & HABITAT
These nocturnal creatures live in very arid country (desert), which have clumps of Spinifex grass and acacia shrubs preferably.
There is not very many of these marsupials left and nowdays are found only in patches of Western Australia (Kimberlys), South Australia and the Northern territory (Alice Springs)and small patches in arid parts of Queensland
To help it survive in the arid conditions the Bilby inhabits, it gets most of its moisture from the food it eats.
Its diet includes lots of small insects (eg termites, ants, beetles, witchery grubs, centipedes and grasshoppers) and various seeds, types of fungi, roots and seeds.
They use their sharp claws to rake a lot of their food out of the sandy soil, and their long noses and slender tongue to eat their meals mainly when the sun is down
BEHAVIOUR + BURROWS
As already stated they are Nocturnal and fairly solitary only coming together to mate. They are also very territorial, building numerous burrows in their own area to shelter in.
Their burrows are very deep, spirally downwards to make it difficult for predators (Lizards, Hawks & including Aboriginal man, in the past) to get to them
Despite the female having eight teats in her backwardly opening pouch, the usual "litter" is two
The pouch is backward facing to stop dirt and soil entering when she is digging burrows or for food.
Bilbies breed throughout the year, (gestation only takes 2 to 3 weeks), and after being born their young live in the pouch for about 70 to 80 days, when they are then "released" into the burrow for the mother to continue to suckle them for a further two weeks
At the age of 6 months they can start to take care of themselves
The Bilby has gone from being a very prolific animal in Australia, once covering more than 70% of the mainland, to near extinction and surviving on the edges of Australia's great arid regions
Reasons for decline include:-
1) Introduced rabbits, cats and foxes took over the land the Bilbys used to inhabit
2) Feral cats and foxes hunted and eat Bilbys
3) Hunting first by Aboriginals for food, and then Europeans for the pelts
4) Eating poison put down to control the ballooning population growth of the feral rabbit
5) Habitat destruction by cattle etc
6) Change of fire patterns, changed the regrowth patterns of the land
7) Due to competition droughts have a heavier effect
The Bilby is now a protected animal in Australia
As part of an attempt to increase awareness of the Bilbys plight and to "Australianise" Easter the long, rabbit-like eared Bilby is the new native Australian icon for Easter.
In most shops in Australia you can find Chocolate Bilbys, next to the more traditional Chocolate eggs and Rabbits.
Click here for more about the EASTER BILBY