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Greater Bilby Fact File

Appearance

The greater bilby has a body covered with silvery-blue hair across the back and the top of the head. Their underside and a streak across the flank is white. They have a long slender snout. On either side of the snout are long whiskers which help them to find their way around. Their hind feet are long to assist with hopping and this foot lacks the first toe. The front feet are comparatively shorter.

On top of the head are a pair of large ears that are coloured a light pink.

Greater bilbies have a long sticky tongue which they can use to lick up insects.

They have a long tail which is coloured the same as the body at the base becoming black for the top half and white along the bottom half. This tail measures between 20 and 29cm (7.9-11.4in) long.

Males are slightly larger than females measuring 30-55cm (11.8-21.7in) long with females measuring 29-39cm (11.4-15.4in) long. Males weigh up to 2.5kg (5.5lbs) and females weigh up to 1.1kg (2.43lbs).

Diet

The greater bilby is an omnivore. They feed on fruit, bulbs (especially the bush onion), fungi and seeds along with insects.

Most of their water requirements come from their food and as such they do not need to drink water often.

While feeding they consume large amounts of sand and this may make up as much as 90% of their feces.

Greater Bilby

Scientific Name

Macrotis lagotis

Conservation Status

Vulnerable

Weight

Male 2.5kg (5.5lbs)

Female 1.1kg (2.43lbs)

Length

Male

30-55cm (11.8-21.7in)

Female

29-39cm (11.4-15.4in

Lifespan

Wild 5-7 years

Captive 11 years

Diet

Omnivorous

Range

Greater biblies are native to Australia. Here they are currently found in the states of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. Previously they could be found in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. While they are currently extinct here there are plans for them to be reintroduced.

Their range has been reduced by as much as 80% since the arrival of European settlers.

Habitat

They make their home in grasslands and scrublands in the semi-arid and arid areas.

Bilbies dig a burrow which may be up to 3m (9.8ft) deep and goes underground in a spiral. This not only shelters the greater bilby but may be used by as many 16 other species. They maintain a number of burrows and may visit as many as 10 per night. The entrance to the burrow is often sheltered by a bush or termite mound. They may backfill the burrow to prevent entry by predators.

Greater Bilby

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Reproduction

Breeding takes place throughout the year with females experiencing multiple estrus cycles. In a good year the female may produce as many as four litters.


Following a successful mating and a short gestation of just 13-16 days up to 3 young may be born. This gestation is the shortest of any mammal.


These are underdeveloped and must climb in to the pouch and attach to the teat where they will grow for the next 80 days.


The pouch of a bilby faces backwards and this prevents sand entering the pouch when they are digging. The pouch has 8 teats but the maximum number of joeys they will raise is 3.


Once they leave the pouch they are almost ready to be independent but will spend a few more weeks with mum. After they leave the pouch she will leave them in the burrow while she goes foraging.


Sexual maturity is reached at 6 months old.

Behavior

The bilby spends most of their day in the burrow and emerges at night to forage. In bad weather they may remain in the burrow for the full night.

They have poor vision and find most of their food using their keen sense of smell.

Greater bilbies may live alone or in a small family group.

Bilbies are important to the environment as they dig deep holes to find insects and these then fill which leaf litter which breaks down and creates nutrients for the soil.

Greater Bilby

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the greater bilby include dingoes and owls. Introduced predators such as the red fox and feral cat have had a significant impact on their population.

Humans impact their population through habitat clearance, rabbit baiting and food competition from domestic stock.

Quick facts

In the local indigenous language the greater bilby is known as urgata.

They are also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot.

In Australia it is common to celebrate the Easter bilby rather than the Easter bunny and chocolate bilbies are sold in stores.

Greater bilbies are one of two bilby species which once called Australia home. The other known as the lesser bilby went extinct in the 1930s.

They are the largest of Australia’s bandicoot species.

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Photo Credits

Top

Under license

Middle

By Queensland Government - [1], CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92725981

Bottom

By Kevin503 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19089426

References

Slater, P. and Parish, S., 2016. First Field Guide To Australian Mammals. 1st ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley.

Australian Reptile Park - Wildlife Park Sydney & Animal Encounters Australia. 2020. Greater Bilby Habitat, Diet & Reproduction - Sydney. [online] Available at: <https://reptilepark.com.au/animals/mammals/greater-bilby/> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

The Australian Museum. 2020. Greater Bilby. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/mammals/greater-bilby/> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J. 2016. Macrotis lagotis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T12650A21967189. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T12650A21967189.en. Downloaded on 15 July 2020.

Savethebilbyfund.com. 2020. About Bilbies – Save The Bilby Fund. [online] Available at: <https://savethebilbyfund.com/about-bilbies/> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

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