Leipoa ocellata (oh'-sel-ah'-tah: "eye-marked egg-leaver" [i.e., marked with eye-like spots])
The Mallee Fowl is a Megapod and a large sedentary bird
Their name "Mallee" comes from the main district where they are found, (North East Victoria) which is also
the name to describe the semi arid eucalypt woodland in the region (ie. Mallee Scrub)
The Mallee Fowl is a large bird (even plump looking) around 15 kg on average and up to 600mm in length
Their colouring is a range of mottles Grey, Brown, Tan & Black with a white to grey throat and underbelly with a dark bill
Their average life span is 30 years
They make mainly a booming noise which comes from the male (territorial)
LOCATION + HABITAT
This megapod has adapted to the harsh conditions of semi arid "scrub land" in Southern Australia which is
very dry low eucalypt woodland.
They live and move on the ground but can also be found "roosting" in low bushes
CHARACTERISTICS OF BEHAVIOUR
The Mallee Fowl is a solitary bird as the male is nest bound while the female searches for food to help her produce eggs
They do mate for life and both male and female are sedentary with the male being strongly territorial
around its mound (nest) site
They tend to roost at night in low bushes when not tending the mound
You have to be very quiet and patient to spot one in the scrub, as they are very shy
These birds do not need to drink from surface water.
They feed on seeds (acacia & cassia shrubs), herbs, blossoms and insects such as cockroaches and beetles
BREEDING + MOUND
The mound is built by the male
He digs a hole in the ground I meter deep and up to 4 or 5 meters in diameter
He then collects leaves and twigs and drops them into the hole until he actually has a mound which is
about 1 1/2 meters higher than the surrounding ground level.
The male Mallee Fowl then excavates an "egg chamber" into the mound
Rain then wets all the twigs and leaves etc.
(This is important as this fermentation of decaying material gives the heat to the inside of the mound)
The bird then coves the mound with sand and dirt to help the decaying process and to keep the heat in
During the breeding season September to April
the female returns and lays one egg at a time (up to 35 in total usually around 20) into the egg chamber that
the male has uncovered for her.
He recovers each egg individually.
For the eggs incubation period of 49 days the males job is to keep the egg chamber at 33 -34 degrees Celsius.
But not all eggs are laid at the same time (often each one days apart), so he tends the mound for many months
He does this by
either removing or adding soil to let heat out or trap more heat in or in
removing some soil he also may let the sun warm up the inside of the mound or adding soil to the mound
can protect it from the sun.
By putting his beak into the mound the male Mallee Fowl is able to judge the temperature of the mound
When the chick is born it digs its own way out of the mound and must take care of its self, find its own food
and is able to fly within 24 hours.
Mortality rate of young Mallee fowl is very high
They repair and reuse the mound each breeding season so the mound often grows in size each year
These birds are highly threatened due to the following reasons :
#) Grazing of sheep take away their food source
#) Wild Rabbits eat their seeds etc as well
#) Loss of habitat due to wheat farming
#) Hunted by foxes, man and feral cats
#) Burning off (loss of leaf litter with which to build their mounds)
#) Salinity of the land is rising effecting plant growth