Greater Bilby

Scientific Name: (Macrotis lagotis)

The Greater Bilby is about the size of a rabbit with soft blue-grey fur. It has large, elongated ears with white fur underneath and a long black tail with a white tip. It has a long, pointed snout and forelimbs adapted for burrowing with 3 strong, short clawed toes (and two unclawed toes). Their hind legs are slender and the same shape as a kangaroos. This species grows to 55 cm long with a tail up to 29 cm long and up to 2500g in weight for a male and 1200g for females. It is a nocturnal, burrowing animal that generally lives solitary.


This species are found in hot, dry areas including deserts, dunes and grasslands. They are associated with grassland areas found near dunes and sandy plains which are ideal feeding and burrowing sites. Unfortunately the Greater bilby occurs now in less than 20% of its original range. Before European settlement the Greater bilby occurred on over 70% of the Australian mainland.


The bilby is mostly an opportunistic feeder. Its diet consists of mostly insects, fungi, bulbs, seeds, fruit, lizards, small mammals and occasionally eggs. The proportion of plant to insect proportions depends on the habitat and season. The bilby uses its amazing sense of smell and excellent hearing to help find food above and even underground.


The Greater bilby can breed throughout the year and are polyoestrus (more than one oestrus cycle in a year). Gestation is approximately 14 days and once born the young climb into its mother’s pouch and that is where they stay and suckle for about 75 days. Once they emerge from the pouch the young are almost independent only spending another few weeks with their mother before venturing out on their own. Females can commence breeding at six months. It is estimated in the wild bilbies live to around 5 years of age and usually live longer in captivity.


Conservation Status: Vulnerable

The greatest threat to the Greater bilby was and still is the Red fox. Other reductions in population have been contributed to by habitat clearing (for grazing and fire reduction), drought, competition (with cattle and rabbits) and rabbit baiting. Bilby numbers correlate directly with fox numbers and so feral animal predation is the main threat to the species and is the main reason for the huge decrease in numbers since European development.