Nature conservation

Threatened species

Bilby - profile

Indicative distribution


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Key:
known
predicted
The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Macrotis lagotis
Conservation status in NSW: Presumed Extinct
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Profile last updated: 05 Aug 2019

Description

The Bilby is an important part of traditional indigenous culture in the deserts of Central Australia. The large rabbit like ears of the Greater Bilby (referred to as Bilby) have also made it a popular Australian icon at Easter. Through habitat loss and competition with introduced animals, the number of these small mammals has dramatically reduced over the last 100 years.

Bilbies have an excellent sense of smell and sharp hearing. Their fur is blue-grey with patches of tan and is very soft. The tail is black and white with a distinct crest. Bilbies have strong forelimbs and thick claws, which they use to dig for food and make burrows. They are about 29–55 cm in length. Compared to bandicoots, they have a longer tail, bigger ears, and softer, silky fur. At 1 to 2.4 kg, the male Bilby is about the same size as a rabbit; although male Bilbies in exceptional health have been known to grow up to 3.7 kg in captivity. The female Bilby is smaller, and weighs around 0.8 to 1.1 kilograms.

Distribution

A hundred years ago, Bilbies were common in many habitats throughout Australia, from the dry interior to temperate coastal regions. Changes to the Bilby's habitat have seen their numbers greatly reduced and today the species is nationally listed as vulnerable, and is presumed extinct in NSW. They now occur in fragmented populations in mulga shrublands and spinifex grasslands in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory; in the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts and the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia; and the Mitchell Grasslands of southwest Queensland.

Habitat and ecology

  • Once widespread in arid, semi-arid and relatively fertile areas, the Bilby is now restricted to arid regions and remains a threatened species. The Bilby prefers arid habitats because of the spinifex grass and acacia shrub.
  • Bilbies are nocturnal omnivores that do not need to drink water, as they get all their moisture requirements from their food, which includes insects and their larvae, seeds, spiders, bulbs, fruit, fungi, and very small animals. Most food is found by digging or scratching in the soil, and using their very long slender tongues.
  • Unlike bandicoots, Bilbies are excellent burrowers and build extensive tunnel systems with their strong forelimbs and well-developed claws. A Bilby typically makes a number of burrows within its home range, up to about a dozen; and moves between them, using them for shelter both from predators and the heat of the day. The female Bilby's pouch faces backwards, which prevents her pouch from getting filled with dirt while she is digging.
  • Bilbies have a very short gestation period of about 12–14 days, one of the shortest among mammals.


Threats

Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region