Malleefowl are a protected species under both State (Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act 1950) and Commonwealth (Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) legislation. Malleefowl occur within SMC’s Koolanooka/Blue Hills Project area and we have developed a Malleefowl Management Plan to ensure its protection during the project through maintaining Malleefowl abundance, diversity, distribution and conservation status. This will be achieved by raising awareness through education; minimising habitat loss, grazing pressure, predation, road deaths and fire threat; and monitoring Malleefowl abundance.
Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) are large ground-dwelling birds, well known for constructing large mounds of soil and vegetation that utilise heat from the sun and composting vegetation to incubate eggs. The adult Malleefowl is about the size of a small turkey (55 to 61 cm) and approximately 1.5 kg in weight. They live in semi-arid to arid shrublands and low woodlands dominated by mallee, broombush and scrub pine. In Western Australia, they are also found in eucalypt woodlands and acacia shrublands. They feed opportunistically on insects, seeds (particularly acacia species), native herbs and flowers and are known to drink readily in captivity, but can survive without surface water.
Malleefowl pair for life and both sexes help to build the mound; however, once built it is the male that maintains the mound at a constant temperature. Clutches of 15-25 eggs are laid in spring and young usually hatch in summer. The chicks are independent from their parents once they emerge from the mound, able to run and feed within an hour of leaving the nest. Malleefowl reach maturity at two and begin breeding at three to four years of age. The lifespan of the Malleefowl is unknown but birds have been known to breed for at least 25 years.
Once common and widespread across semi-arid southern Australia, Malleefowl have severely declined in the last century due to habitat destruction in agriculture areas, predation by foxes and feral cats, grazing and rabbits, fire and road kills. Malleefowl are currently classified as “rare or likely to become extinct” under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.