Bandicoot

Bilbies, or rabbit-eared bandicoots, belong to a distinct group of marsupials with 22 species, all of which live in Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea and on some of the surrounding islands. They are characterized by their long, pointed muzzles, and have hind legs that are larger and more well developed than their front legs, though not to the same degree as the kangaroos. This species is the largest of the group of mammals called bandicoots. In Australia it is also known as the pinkie because of its nose colour.

There used to be two species of bilby. Unlike other species of bandicoot, bilbies are powerful diggers and excavate spiral-shaped burrows.

The range of bandicoot is directly affected by the soil because of its tunnelling habits. The species is often found in grassland areas, where; it can dig burrows with relative ease. These underground retreats provide shelter from the hot sun and a refuge from predators. They only provide temporary homes, however, and bandicoots move on and dig a new home when food becomes scarce. They live singly or sometimes in pairs, shuffling along slowly when walking.

Males are usually bigger than females, but both have very long finely furred ears. Bilbies have long grey, black and white tails with a crest of long hair on the end.

Bandicoots are nocturnal, sleeping in their burrows during the day. They live alone or in small colonies, usually with one adult male, several females and a number of young. Bilbies have the shortest gestation of any mammal - 14 days. Once born, the babies spend around 80 days in their mother's pouch, followed by a further two weeks in the burrow.

Distribution: Range has reduced over the last century, partly because of predation by cats. It is now confined to Western Australia, Northern Territory and southwestern Queensland.

Habitat: Dry habitats, including dry woodland, scrub, savannah and semi-desert.

Weight: 0.9 - 2.3 kg (2 - 5 lb); males are slightly larger.

Length: 51 - 91 cm (20 - 36 in); tail is 3/4 the body length.

Maturity: Females 6 months; males 8 months.

Gestation Period: 13 - 16 days.

Breeding: 1 - 2,  occasionally 3; young spend 75 days in the pouch and are independent by 90 days.

Food: Invertebrates plus bulbs and seeds, particularly bush onion.

Lifespan: 5 - 7 years.

Status: Endangered.

Ears

Long and pointed, the ears help the greater bilby to hear well as its eyesight is poor.

Tail

The banded tail is grey at the base, black in the middle and white at the tip.

Tunnelling

The spiralling tunnel leads to a sleeping chamber around 1.5 m (5 ft) below the surface.

Grooming

The claws on the hind feet are used for grooming.

Nose

The nose is pink, with prominent whiskers.

SLEEPING

This bandicoot puts its muzzle between its front paws, with its ears covering the eyes, and sleeps standing up.

Gallery of Bandicoot