Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Marsupialia
Family:    Thylacomyidae
Size:    Length: 12 to 24 inches (30.5 to 61 cm)  Tail: 8 to 12 inches (20.3 to 30.5 cm)
Weight: 2 to 5 pounds (0.9 to 2.3 kg)
Diet: Insects, small animals, seeds, fruit and plants
Distribution: Australia
Young:  1 to 3, once per year
Animal Predators:  Dingoes, foxes and cats
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: Young: Pup 
Lifespan: Up to eight years



       The Commonwealth of Australia Endangered Species Program has chosen the greater bilby as its mascot to represent all endangered species.

       The greater bilby is also known as Rabbit-Eared Bandicoot, Rabbit Bandicoot, Pinkie and Dalgyte.

       The lesser bilby (macrotis leucura) was more aggressive than the greater bilby. It has not been seen since 1931 and is presumed extinct.

       Like rabbits, bilbies stand on their hind feet with their front paws tucked, to scan their surroundings.

       Bilbies get most of their water from the foods they eat.

       There has been a recent movement in Australia to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby. Created in 1991 by The Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia, the Easter Bilby is now found in storybooks and is available as a chocolate treat for Easter.


Greater bilbies resemble rabbits, with their long, transparent ears, but their hairless nose is longer than that of a rabbit and their tail is long and black with a white tip. Their fur is mostly soft grey with a white underbelly and white legs. As with all marsupials, the females have a pouch to hold their young. The strong front claws enable them to dig fast and deep, while the claws on their hind legs are used mainly for grooming. 



They live in arid regions, grasslands, shrub lands and woods, in areas where there are a minimum of rabbits and foxes. Bilbies have several burrows within one area, but they usually stay within six feet (1.8 m) of the burrow openings for a quick escape. The entrance to their burrow goes down in a spiral for about six feet (1.8 m) below ground, making it difficult for a fox or dingo to enter. 


Feeding Habits

Greater bilbies eat a variety of foods, including insects, small animals (mice, lizards), seeds, fruit and plants. Along with their food, they manage to eat quite a bit of soil as well. 



Bilbies breed during the months of March to May. Although the females have eight nipples, they usually only give birth to one to three tiny pups approximately two weeks after mating. Born only half an inch (1.27 cm) long, the babies remain in their motherís pouch for 17 to 18 days. By then, they are too large to remain in the pouch and the mother leaves them in a burrow while hunting for food. The female nurses the pups for a further 14 days before they begin to come out and learn to hunt with her. Once grown, the offspring often build a burrow nearby that of their motherís. 



Greater bilbies live in burrows, where they sleep in a squatting position with their ears flop forward to cover their eyes. They sleep during the day to escape the heat. Although they often live alone, it is not unheard of for bilbies to live in family groups of a mother, a father and several pups. 



Greater bilbies are considered an endangered species by the Commonwealth of Australia Endangered Species. Once found throughout most of mainland Australia, from Western Australia to SW Queensland and New South Wales, they are now only found in the wild in small areas of southwestern Queensland and the border area between Western Australia and scattered portions of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory. Because bilbies are very important to the traditional culture of native people of Australia such as the Pitjantjatjarra and Warlpiri people, they are contributing their valuable traditional knowledge to help save them.



Greater Bilby Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US