Today I went out to Goonoo State Forest (about 45
kms N/E of Dubbo in central western NSW) to check out the most accessible
After returning home to check my photographic
records, I found that this Malleefowl is about 3 weeks ahead of schedule. He has
the mound quite full of leaf litter, and there are just a few scraps remaining
of the windrow that he would have raked up prior to filling the previously
excavated mound. Perhaps the late winter/spring rains will come early this
For those unfamiliar with the Malleefowl's routine
- after the breeding season is finished here, somewhere around mid to late
February, the mound is excavated, and left looking like an inverted cone. Around
June/July the male bird starts to rake up a windrow of leaf litter. This windrow
is about 50 to 60 cms wide, can be up to 30 cms high, and snakes through the
forest for quite a long way, even crossing forest roads if need be. It depends
on the quantity of leaf drop and other seasonal factors - and the bird
will normally choose to collect litter from a different quadrant of the mound's
surrounding area each year.
My photos indicate that usually there is still a
thick windrow extending a long way from the mound after the middle of July. It's
interesting to see this windrow, like a thick leafy hall runner that seems to
start in the middle of the mound, flow up and over the lip of the mound,
and extend into the distance, around or over obstacles like fallen logs.
What a lot of work for a bird!
These observations apply only to Malleefowl in
Goonoo, an isolated population that hangs on quite well in what most
people think of as unlikely Malleefowl habitat. It is fairly open
ironbark/box/pine forest with a predominantly acacia understorey, growing
on ferruginous sandstone - not mallee country. (There ARE mallee areas in the
forest, but that's not where the mounds are.) I'd be interested to know if
Malleefowl in other parts of Australia have filled their mounds
Incidentally - a brief look-around showed eight
species of wattle in the vicinity of the mound.
(The only thing certain about birdwatching is that