Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Mallefowl

Leipoa ocellata

Photo by Edward Smith (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
malleefowl (en); faisão-australiano (pt); léipoa ocellé (fr); talégalo leipoa (es); thermometerhuhn (de)


Taxonomy:
Order Galliformes
Family Megapodiidae


Range:
The mallefowl is endemic to Australia. It was formerly widespread throughout the country, but is now restricted to the southern half of the country, where it is patchly distributed from Western Australia to New South Wales.


Size:
These birds are 60 cm long and weigh 1,5-2,5 kg.


Habitat:
They are found in semi-arid to arid scrublands and woodlands dominated by mallee Eucalyptus and Acacia. They require a sandy substrate and abundance of leaf-litter for breeding.


Diet:
The malleefowl is a generalist forager, mainly eating seeds, but also flowers, fruits and foliage, invertebrates such as ants, beetles and cockroaches, lerp, fungi and tubers.


Breeding:
These birds are monogamous and breed almost all year round. The male builds the nest, a large mound of sand or soil and leaf litter, twigs and bark, 5 m wide and over 1m high, where the female buries 3-35 pink eggs. The eggs are incubated by the warm temperature of the mound, which receives constant attention by the male adding or removing material to ensure the temperature is perfect. The eggs hatch after 49-96 and the chicks receive no parental care after hatching and are capable of flying and feeding themselves within 24 hours of their emergence from the mound.


Conservation:
IUCN status - VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a very large, but patchy, breeding range. The global population is estimated at 100.000 individuals and is suspected to be declining at a rate of 30-49% over the last 45 years. The malleefowl is mainly threatened by habitat loss due to agricultural expansion and wildfires, predation of young birds by introduced red foxes Vulpes vulpes and wild dogs and low food availability due to plant harvesting and intensive grazing by introduced herbivores such as goats and sheep. Introduction of exotic weeds, the use of agricultural chemicals and road kills may also pose a threat to the species.

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