36x28cm pencil on Bristol paper drawing
The bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is a medium-sized marsupial that is best known for its rabbit-like ears. It has long, silky blue-grey fur and a long tail that is black with a white tip. The bilby is light and delicate in build but with strongly clawed toes for digging burrows. Bilbies are solitary, nocturnal animals, spending daylight hours in their deep, spiral shaped burrows and emerging at night to forage for plant roots, bulbs, fungi, grass seeds, termites, ants, beetles, insect larvae and spiders. Dalgyte and Ninu are just two of the many Indigenous names for the bilby. It is also commonly known as the greater bilby, to differentiate it from the extinct lesser bilby Macrotis leucra. Emerging after dark to forage for food they use their long snouts to dig out bulbs, tubers, spiders, termites, witchetty grubs and fungi. They use their tongues to lick up grass seeds. They have poor sight and rely on good hearing and a keen sense of smell. To minimise threats from predators they’ll mostly stay within 250m of their burrow, but sometimes roam further afield depending on the food supply. While feeding, Bilbies ingest large amounts of dirt or sand, which characterise their droppings. They don’t need to drink water as they get enough moisture from their food. This characteristic contributes to their success in arid regions. Nevertheless, Bilbies are extremely adaptive, and have lived in a range of habitats throughout Australia. Depending on the food supply, Bilbies reproduce year round, with females typically giving birth to one, two, or occasionally three tiny offspring. It’s rare for all of them to survive to adulthood. Newborn Bilbies crawl from the opening of the birth canal to their mother’s pouches (which are backward-facing to prevent sand getting in when they dig). Babies remain in the pouch for around 80 days. Female Bilbies reproduce from the age of six months. Lifespan is 6-7 years in the wild and 11 years in captivity. The bilby is a threatened species.