Only 2,800 Malleefowl are remaining in Australia's heavily populated state of New South Wales, out of 25,000 total. However, an unexpected band of brave people—farmers—are stepping up to save these threatened birds.
The existence of invasive foxes and feral cats has severely disrupted the survival and reproduction strategy of these ground-nesting birds, regardless of whatever natural balance the ecosystem may have once had. As a result, the survival rate of Malleefowl chicks in the wild is less than 2%. These fascinating birds are skilled at remaining undetected from all other animals within their range because of their complex plumage. Malleefowl belong to a Galliformes family known as "mound builders."Males choose a location in the winter, usually 3 square yards under the mallee tree's shade, and use their feet to rake sandy soil backward to create a mound for their nest. After excavating to a depth of around three feet, they will pile organic material around the depression for the remainder of the winter, building a mound that may reach a height of two feet.
Farmers who live and work in the Rankins Springs, close to West Wyalong, area have been gathering eggs from the birds' nesting mounds for the past three years and bringing them to a specialized incubation facility before releasing them into an enclosed space free of feral animals.
One farmer, Rodney Guest, told a reporter there, "They didn't have a great deal of success but we have just put a bit of farmer logic into the whole process of incubation and releasing." He has reportedly spent the last 20 years removing foxes and feral cats from his property in an effort to aid this bird, according to insights that were pulled up. "We have been picking up birds from the previous and current season, we are really over the moon with what we have achieved," they all declare with a great sense of pride.