The Bilby is a small marsupial (has a pouch!) that belongs to the group of bandicoots.
There was actually once two species of bilby: the Greater and Lesser Bilby, that were once widespread across Australia. Only the Greater Bilby exists today (commonly referred to simply as a Bilby now).
The range of the Bilby across Australia is now largely restricted. It can be found in isolated locations in south-western Queensland, parts of Western Australia and Northern Territories.
Bilbies inhabit deserts, grasslands and mulga shrublands.
Habitat loss (due to accelerated development of agriculture), uncontrolled killing (because of their fur), lack of food and great number of introduced predators (such as foxes and cats) are responsible for the sharp decline in the number of bilbies in the wild.
These factors have put the Greater Bilby on the list of endangered species.
Ongoing conservation efforts are critical for the Bilby’s survival.
Interesting Bilby Facts:
Bilbies can reach 11 to 22 inches in length and 2.2 to 5.5 pounds of weight. Males are 2 times bigger than females.
They are covered with long, soft, bluish-grey fur on the back and white fur on the chest and belly. It has black tail with white tip.
They have a long snout covered with numerous dark whiskers. It has long, slender tongue, large ears and long tail. Strong front legs are equipped with sharp claws. Unusual morphology of this animal is responsible for the nickname: rabbit-eared bandicoot.
They are nocturnal (active during the night).
Bilbies eliminate excess heat using its large, hairless ears and keeps body temperature under control during very hot periods of day. Its ears are very flexible. They can be folded in half, positioned close to the body and rotated.
They have poor eyesight, but it has keen sense of hearing and smell which facilitate detection of food.
The Bilby is an omnivore (mixed diet based on the plants and animals). It eats insects, lizards, seed, fungi, bulbs and fruit.
They do not drink water. It obtains the required moisture from their food.
Natural enemies of bilbies are foxes and cats.
They are a solitary and territorial animal. It builds several burrows in the ground where it hides during the day. Burrows are very steep and more than 6 feet deep. Bilbies occasionally gather in groups of up to 4 animals.
Mating season of bilbies takes place all year round.
The female gives birth to 2 to 3 babies up to 4 times per year when food is abundant. Pregnancy lasts only 12 to 14 days. Poorly developed babies crawl into the mother's pouch to complete their development.
The female has a backward-facing pouch to prevent entering of dirt during digging. At the age of 11 weeks, babies are ready to leave the pouch. They stay in the burrow while mother searches food. Two weeks later, young bilbies become ready for independent life.
Bilbies reach sexual maturity at the age of 6 months.
They can survive 6 to 7 years in the wild and up to 10 years in the captivity.