Malleefowl sighted at Telopea Downs

September 2022

Last month, the team made an exciting discovery on our Telopea Downs property in the Mallee region of Western Victoria.

When we returned to check our cameras, we were thrilled to find these images of threatened Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) and Malleefowl chicks!

These images confirm our theory that these elusive and endangered birds have been using our property as part of their range, proving there is still hope for populations outside conservation reserves and National Parks in the Mallee.

Malleefowl (a large ground-dwelling bird) in the foreground, with sandy soil and scrubby trees in the background beyond a chicken wire fence
Our cameras captured this rare image of an endangered Malleefowl foraging in the sandy substrate.

Habitat requirements met at Telopea

During a recent vegetation assessment, our survey team located old mounds, leading us to suspect Malleefowls were using the site. By setting up cameras near the boundary fence and waiting patiently, we were able to confirm our predictions were true!

Malleefowl historically had an extensive home range across the southern half of the continent, from Western Victoria to south-west corner of Western Australia. However, this distribution has now contracted by about 50%, due to fire, predation by foxes and cats, and habitat loss in their former range.

Malleefowl inhabit semi-arid woodlands, which includes multi-stemmed ‘Mallee’ Eucalypt species. They also require habitat that hasn’t been burned for several decades. Our property hasn’t been burned in over 40 years, making it suitable not only for Malleefowl, but also for Mallee Emu-wren- who require unburnt patches of Porcupine Grass (Triodia).

Malleefowl (a large ground-dwelling bird) in the foreground, with sandy soil and scrubby trees in the background beyond a chicken wire fence.
Malleefowl require certain Mallee habitat for mound creation.

Laying season about to start

Malleefowls are quite the engineers, constructing distinct nest mounds from sandy substrate and leaf litter to incubate their eggs. There are only three mound builders in Australia that do this!

In September each year, Malleefowls commence laying, until around mid-summer. The mound is incubated through decomposing leaf material, and later in the season, from the hot summer sun. Temperature is controlled by the male, who takes great care with the condition of the mound whilst the female is away foraging, returning only to lay her eggs. Malleefowl mate for life, and will do this year after year with the same partner.

When chicks hatch, they are buried in the sand up to 1 metre deep, and have to fight their way to the surface. Once they’ve emerged, chicks are mostly on their own, they receive little support from their parents, and can forage for food straight away. Our image captured below is so significant, because, unfortunately, mortality of these young chicks is high.

Malleefowl chick running in the foreground, with sandy soil and scrubby trees in the background with a sunset.
Malleefowl chicks emerge from 1m deep sand in their nest mound.

Our vision for Telopea Downs

Together with our key sponsor First Options Bank, we are protecting this special patch of habitat for the Malleefowl, Mallee Emu-wren and other threatened woodland birds.

We own one of the only remaining strongholds of this type of habitat outside Big Desert and Little Desert National Parks, which makes our conservation work all the more important!

Read more on our project protecting this special habitat here: https://carbonlandscapes.com.au/project/telopea-downs-safe-haven-project/

In the spirit of reconciliation Carbon Landscapes acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.
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