Central mallee lands of NSW
How can we keep malleefowl safe from predators?
The malleefowl is an intriguing native bird that lives in semi-arid and arid parts of Australia. It is about the size of a domestic chicken but instead of laying eggs in a small nest the malleefowl builds a large mound of dirt, sand and decomposing leaf litter. How often are foxes and other predators visiting these mounds? And how can we keep the malleefowl safe?
Animals you’ll see
You may see malleefowl scraping leaf litter in to the mound, digging deep into the mound to lay an egg (both birds are usually present and you may even see the egg), or, courtship behaviour where the malleefowl flap their wings at each other.
We think there may be regular visits to some mounds by echidnas. When you see them, tell us how many echidnas are in each image. Use the drop down list of numbers that appears under the image after selecting echidna from the animals on the right.
Seeing a malleefowl egg uncovered in the mound is quite rare. If you see and egg you can enter this as ‘Something else’ and enter ‘egg in the comments box.
Even rarer than seeing an egg is seeing a malleefowl chick emerge from the mound. We definitely want to know about this as it tells us that successful hatching has occurred despite what else might be happening at the mound.
Top tips from the researchers
- A white blur in an image from during the night is likely to be a bat in mid-flight. You can enter this as ‘Something else’ and enter ‘bat’ in the comments box if you think that’s what it is.
- Sometimes there a flashes of colour or a blurred object in the day time as well. These are usually small wren or honey-eaters. Just enter ‘Bird’ for these, or if you do actually know the species enter it in the comments box.
- Australian ravens and white-winged chough are two birds that are similar in size and colour. Here are a couple of ways to help tell them apart: white-winged chough have red eyes and white on the upper and underside of their wings. Ravens have white eyes and are completely black.
- If there are more than three or four ‘raven like’ birds in the same picture, they are likely to be white-winged choughs.
The research team
Marc Irvin is a Threatened Species Officer for the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). Helping threatened species involves managing the things that can impact on their ability to survive in the wild. Feral animals such as goats and pigs can damage habitat or even eat a threatened plant. Feral predators such as cats and foxes will hunt and kill native animals (including threatened species), thus reducing their ability to persist in the wild. Other threats to threatened species can come from drought, fires, storms, erosion and many other influences that place plants and animals at greater risk. Within the OEH Ecosystems and Threatened Species Team we try to reduce detrimental impacts that if not controlled, place the species at even greater risk.
With our Wildlife Spotter project we are using cameras to monitor the threats to malleefowl specifically at nest sites. Our project has camera traps installed overlooking some of these malleefowl mounds so we can monitor which animals visit them. Camera traps allow us to not only see what species are visiting malleefowl mounds, they also show what each species is doing, how often they visit and when. For example, we will be able to tell how often foxes visit the mound, what times of the day they visit, and whether they are more likely to visit during particular times of the year. This helps us determine the risk each species pose to the malleefowl nest site as well as the best times to manage and reduce these risks. We have cameras placed at sites with different management, so we can compare sites and then use results to inform and adapt our programs as required.