Oh my, the bilby is cute! Their huge ears and their long tails make this little creature look rather like a mouse-kangaroo. These mini marsupials have poor eyesight but overcome that with nocturnal living as well as excellent hearing, excellent sense of smell and their long snout.
They are unfortunately getting quite rare which is worrying because they are considered to be an environmental barometer. They have been described as “ecological engineers” because of their burrowing skills. These tunnels help water get to tree routes and create homes for other animals. The bilby is also really important when it comes to moving seeds around.
Bilbies they eat insects, seeds, fruit and fungi and don’t need to drink water which is just as well when they life in the desert! They find their food by digging or scratching in the soil and using their very long tongues.
As I mentioned, bilbies are endangered and vulnerable, both from an individual perspective and a population wide one. With this danger resting on them, it’s little wonder they are nervous, fearful creatures. And as we saw with the rabbit, fear breeds fear. Are you viewing the world through a lens of fear? If so, examine it, are these reasonable fears. Perhaps your amazingly sensitive nose is sniffing out trouble where there is none…
In the case of the bilby, unfortunately their fears are reasonable. The introduction of invasive species has been bad news for the bilby; feral cats and foxes hunt them and rabbits eat similar food so compete for resources. Indeed, the lesser bilby went extinct in the 1950s-ish because of this as well as habitat changes and changes in fire clearance.
The bilby enjoys a lot of the plants which grow following a fire and their burrowing nature probably protects them from much of the damage. They build extensive tunnel systems in their home ranges and use them to get around without encountering predators and without having to deal with the heat. Amazingly, their burrows go down into the earth in spirals and can be up to 2m deep! Because of all the digging involved in their lifestyle, their pouches face backwards to stop dirt getting in when they’re burrowing.
The bilby’s underground life is explained in a tale about Bilba, the bilby, and Mayra, the wind.