Tuesday 18 June
Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata)
Malleefowl fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Malleefowl are large ground dwelling birds, belonging to a family of 22 bird species known as ‘megapodes’ meaning ‘large feet’. Their name originates from the type of habitat (mallee eucalypts) that they are most associated with. Adult males and females are alike in appearance, with a predominantly pale grey-brown colouring, and broad black markings on the throat (3). The upperparts have black, white and chestnut barred feathers and the legs and large feet are grey in colour (2). Juveniles are a dull grey-brown colour, with barred cream on the upperparts (4). This bird emits grunts and crooning noises, with the males' calls being louder (4).Top
Malleefowl feed on herbs, seeds, flowers, fruit, fungi, tubers and invertebrates (2). They create a nest for breeding, though this is no ordinary nest, for they have developed a highly sophisticated method of temperature control for egg incubation (5). In the autumn, males dig a large hole, which is up to five metres wide, and one metre deep, and during the winter they fill it with twigs and leaves. In spring, when it rains, the vegetation in the nest gets thoroughly soaked. It begins to rot and, like compost, produces heat. The male covers the nest with sand to keep it warm, and when the female lays her eggs on the mound, the male buries them under the sand and vegetation, and leaves them to incubate. Throughout the summer the female may lay up to 35 eggs, one at a time on the nest mound. The male, meanwhile, keeps testing the temperature of the mound by dipping his beak into it. If it is too warm or too cold he opens up the mound or adds more sand and, in this way, is able to keep the nest at a constant temperature of 34 °C. When the chicks hatch, one at a time, they dig their own way out of the mound (5). This may take up 2 - 15 hours, after which they make their way to the protection of low lying vegetation. They receive no parental care; within one hour they are able to run and, after just 24 hours, they can fly. Instinct leads the chick away from the adults' home range to fend for itself (2).Top
Malleefowl used to be widespread across Australia, but their range appears to have been reduced by over 50%. It has not been recorded in the northern territory for several decades and is thought to be extinct there. Most populations occur in fragmented areas across Southern Australia, New South Wales and Victoria (3).Top
The malleefowl inhabits semi-arid to arid shrubland and woodland dominated by mallee eucalypts and/ or wattles Acacia. This bird species requires a sandy substrate and an abundance of leaf-litter for breeding. It occurs in higher densities on more fertile soils with higher rainfall, and prefers habitat that has not been burnt for several decades (2).Top
The malleefowl is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
The success of the malleefowls reproduction depends on the availability of specific habitats and material. Clearance for agriculture has therefore eliminated much habitat and resulted in localised extinction and fragmented populations (4). It is highly sensitive to grazing herbivores such as sheep, large-scale wildfire, and predation by introduced foxes (3). These threats have contributed to a 25% decline in this species’ population in Australia. This trend is thought to continue, especially as reserves get smaller they may be less able to support viable populations (4).Top
Conservation actions are being directed at securing and monitoring existing populations, maintaining and creating habitat corridors between fragmented populations, reducing threats from introduced species, grazing animals and wildfire, and promoting community involvement in research and management (4).Top
Find out more
For more information on the malleefowl, visit:
Birdlife International - Malleefowl :
Malleefowl Preservation Group Australia:
BBC Wildlife Finder:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
IUCN Redlist (February, 2004)
Malleefowl Preservation Group Australia (February 2004)
BirdLife International 2003 BirdLife's online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (February 2004)
- Birdlife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and Birdlife International. Barcelona and Cambridge.
WWF species facts, malleefowl (February 2004)
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.