Bilby — Greater Bilby What is a Bilby?
The bilby is a shy, ground-dwelling, nocturnal marsupial with soft grey and white fur, pink rabbit ears, a long pointed pink snout and a black and white tail. It has strong forearms and claws designed for digging their burrows and uncovering buried food. It lives in the deserts of the Australian Outback. They are roughly the size of a rabbit, with a body length of 30-55 cm and a tail of another 20-30 cm. The female is slightly larger. Bilbies are close relatives of the bandicoot but followed an different evolutionary path about 20 million years ago.
Being nocturnal, bilbies shelter in their burrows until night-time. These burrows can be as long as 3 meters and can reach depths of up to 1 meter.
They forage for food by scampering about sniffing the air and listening with their large ears for prey. Bilbies are omnivores eating mainly termites and their larvae, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, bulbs, seeds, fungi and fruit.
Until 1950 there were two species of bilby but the Lesser Bilby became extinct at about that time. Today only the Great Bilby survives but it is classified as endangered.
At the time of European settlement commencing in 1788 bilbies inhabited over 70% of the Australian continent. Since then their range has declined to less than 20%, and are only found in isolated pockets in the arid and semi-arid areas of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland.
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