The Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) is a rather remarkable bird - and I was lucky enough to get decent views of these birds when I was in..... The Mallee!
Like many species the Malleefowl was once more widespread and abundant, but these days you have to go to the right place to have much chance of seeing them. Luckily I was in the right place!
Malleefowl are remarkable for many reasons: they are members of a small group of birds with large feet called the megapodes, ( they are also known as incubator birds or mound-builders). These birds - well the males mostly - build large mounds of earth and vegetation in which the eggs are incubated by a combination of the heat from the Sun, and from the heat generated by the decomposing vegetation. In these pictures you can see these birds large feet! The birds weigh up to 2.2kg and are about the same size as a domestic duck. (I am unsure it that is a metric duck or an imperial duck!!)
In some places in Australia you can still find the incubation mounds, long abandoned as the only evidence that Malleefowl once lives in that area. The mounds can be 2 or 3 feet high in the middle, and can be used for many years.
The eggs hatch in a well developed chick which is capable of independent living from the time they emerge from the eggs and burrow out of the incubation mound. As a result parental care is close to zero.
Perhaps more remarkably than seeing Mallewfowl, was the fact that I heard them too. This species is essentially silent, and my guide on the day said he knew Malleeflowl specialists who had never hear the low oom oom oom contact call we heard that day. It's reasonable to say we were pretty excited!
So, here are the picture of the Malleefowl in the Mallee!
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