The Bilby

Article | Updated 7 months ago

Macrotis lagotis

This grey to cream furred marsupial has a long, pointed nose, large ears, and a half black, half white tail. A male of the species can weigh up to 2.5 kilograms.

As a nocturnal animal, the Bilby spends the night foraging for insects, seeds, bulbs, fruit, and fungi.

During the day, a bilby will retreat to a burrow that may be up to three metres long, often constructed beneath a shrub, termite mound or spinifex tussock.

Bilbies once inhabited areas from the Western Australian wheat belt to desert grassland regions in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. However, the introduction of foxes has greatly reduced their distribution.

A bilby sniffing around a tree

A bilby sniffing around a tree trunk
Image copyright WA Museum 

Breeding

A Bilby will either live alone, or in a small group comprised of two to four individuals. Bilbies have no specific breeding season. In a good year a Bilby may produce up to four litters. This is dependent upon the availability of water.

Offspring remain in the bilby's backwards-facing pouch for 75 to 80 days before being placed in a burrow for two more weeks. They must then survive on their own.

DPAW Threatened Fauna

Western Australia’s Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) keeps an extensive list of threatened fauna in line with the Wildlife Conservation Act. Within this there are 44 mammals that are listed as “fauna that is rare or likely to become extinct.” This includes the Bilby.

What is being done to protect the Bilby?

Foxes and feral cats are major threats to Bilbies, as is habitat destruction and pastoralism. Historically, Bilbies have also been hunted for their skins, which contributed to their overall population decline.

A national recovery plan has been put into action to aid in the recovery of the Bilby's population numbers and distribution range. Actions include feral predator control, environmental reintroduction, and group monitoring.

Further Information

For further information, please see DPAW