Nature conservation

Threatened species

Malleefowl - profile

Indicative distribution

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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: Leipoa ocellata
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Profile last updated: 01 Dec 2017


The Malleefowl is a large (60 centimetres long, 43 centimetres high and weighing between 1.5 and 2.5 kilograms), distinctive, ground-dwelling bird. It possesses robust, powerful legs, a short bill and a flattish head while the wings are short, broad and rounded at the tip. The head and neck is greyish above, topped with black, the chin is chestnut and the throat and chest are white with a central black stripe. A crest extends from the front of the crown to the nape, and is raised when the bird is alarmed. The upper body is boldly barred and is fringed and streaked grey, white, black and rufous. The lower breast and belly are cream. Although strikingly marked, Malleefowl are particularly well camouflaged in the dappled light of their mallee habitat. Most easily seen at their nest mound, this species usually quietly walks away from observers and rarely flies. The most frequently heard call is loud booming made by the male, usually from on or near its mound.


The stronghold for this species in NSW is the mallee in the south west centred on Mallee Cliffs NP and extending east to near Balranald and scattered records as far north as Mungo NP. West of the Darling River a population also occurs in the Scotia mallee including Tarawi NR and Scotia Sanctuary, and is part of a larger population north of the Murray River in South Australia. The population in central NSW has been significantly reduced through land clearance and fox predation and now occurs chiefly in Yathong, Nombinnie and Round Hill NRs and surrounding areas, though birds continue to survive in Loughnan NR. To the south of this area the species is probably locally extinct in such reserves as Pulletop NR (last recorded 1989), Ingalba NR (1982) and Buddigower NR (1990) and the intensely studied population at Yalgogrin was still known to have at lest one active mound in 2017. Further east, a population continues to persist in the Goonoo forest near Dubbo, though the size of this population is unknown. Outside these areas, occasional records have been made in the Pilliga forests (most recently 1999), around Cobar (1991) and Goulburn River NP (1989) though the extent and status of populations in these areas are unknown.

Habitat and ecology

  • Predominantly inhabit mallee communities, preferring the tall, dense and floristically-rich mallee found in higher rainfall (300 - 450 mm mean annual rainfall) areas. Utilises mallee with a spinifex understorey, but usually at lower densities than in areas with a shrub understorey. Less frequently found in other eucalypt woodlands, such as Inland Grey Box, Ironbark or Bimble Box Woodlands with thick understorey, or in other woodlands such dominated by Mulga or native Cypress Pine species.
  • Prefers areas of light sandy to sandy loam soils and habitats with a dense but discontinuous canopy and dense and diverse shrub and herb layers.
  • Malleefowl will occupy areas within 5 years of fire, however higher breeding densities are recorded from older age classes.
  • A pair may occupy a range of between 50 and 500 ha, overlapping with those of their neighbours. Mainly forage in open areas on seeds of Acacias and other native shrubs (Cassia, Beyeria, Bossiaea), buds, flowers and fruits of herbs and various shrubs, insects (cockroaches, ants, soil invertebrates), and cereals if available.
  • Incubate eggs in large mounds that contain considerable volumes of sandy soil. The litter within the mounds must be dampened for it to decompose and provide heat for incubation of eggs. Up to 34 eggs may be laid in a single season, though usually between 15 and 24 (and clutches smaller in dry years). The male monitors the temperature within the egg chamber using its bill, and regularly works the mound during the breeding season to maintain a constant temperature around 34 degrees. The chicks hatch after between 49 and 96 days (average around 60) and can walk as soon as they emerge from the mound, can run quickly within 2 hours and can fly within 24 hours.
  • Recently burnt areas are used for foraging, with malleefowl taking advantage of increased herbage, while adjacent unburnt habitats are used for roosting, nesting, and daytime shelter.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Brigalow Belt SouthLiverpool Plains Predicted None
Brigalow Belt SouthPilliga Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthPilliga Outwash Predicted None
Brigalow Belt SouthTalbragar Valley Known None
Cobar PeneplainBarnato Downs Known None
Cobar PeneplainCanbelego Downs Known None
Cobar PeneplainLachlan Plains Known None
Cobar PeneplainNymagee Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsBogan-Macquarie Predicted None
Darling Riverine PlainsGreat Darling Anabranch Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsPooncarie-Darling Predicted None
Murray Darling DepressionDarling Depression Known None
Murray Darling DepressionSouth Olary Plain Known None
NSW South Western SlopesInland Slopes Known None
NSW South Western SlopesLower Slopes Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
RiverinaLachlan Predicted None
Sydney BasinKerrabee Known None