It’s that time of year again when Australian groups commence the annual monitoring of known and potential Malleefowl mounds. NACC NRM’s Biodiversity team, Jarna and Sam, along with Birdlife Midwest volunteer Heather Beswick tackled the trails of Canna Reserve, looking for potential mounds and signs of nesting activity!
In Western Australia, Malleefowl are listed as vulnerable under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (SPRAT Profile 2023 DCCEEW) and face pressure from a range of threats. Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) are one of only three bird species that build an intricately structured mound to incubate their eggs. Mounds can be more than four metres in diameter and over a metre in height. The male Malleefowl will use his powerful legs to scrape leaf litter and sand into the centre of the mound, where the female can lay her eggs. This is then covered with leaf litter, and the decomposition of this material will create a warm incubator. The male will then maintain the temperature of the mound at 33 degrees celsius by adding or removing material each day.
Each year, monitoring teams walk through dense bushland to check Malleefowl mounds for any signs of breeding activity, with the help of GPS, a smartphone app and a measuring tape. This year, Jarna and Sam explored Canna Reserve, a well-known Malleefowl hot spot within our region. The team undertook what is called ‘ground-truthing’ of LiDAR points at Canna, which is a process that confirms the accuracy of remote sense data. In ground-truthing and registering mound data, the site and its data are recorded in the National Malleefowl Database, which ensures annual monitoring.
The Northern Agricultural Region is home to over 800 registered Malleefowl mounds, all of which require hundreds of hours of monitoring every year, undertaken by keen volunteers. Malleefowl are known for their elusive behaviour and inconspicuous mounds, which are a challenge to spot in the landscape. Because of the Malleefowl’s mysterious tendencies, monitoring their mounds, which act as indicators of breeding activity, helps to determine population estimates in the area.
Under the guidance of the National Malleefowl Monitoring Program, crucial organisations such as the WA Malleefowl Recovery Group have been established to provide state support and much-needed education to communities. NACC NRM has been fortunate enough to partner with these organisations to provide support and funding for Malleefowl projects.