The Innes National Park at the southern tip of Yorke Peninsula is one of the more reliable places to see the endangered Malleefowl. On our recent holiday there I didn’t manage to see any, but I was delighted to get some good photos all the same.
The birds I’ve shown here on this post were stuffed birds on display in the park Visitor Centre!
I have seen this species here on previous visits many years ago. A friend of ours used to have access to some non-public roads so he could set up his beehives in the mallee which is the predominant tree in the park. Allan was able to set up his 8mm movie camera and film the male malleefowl working at the nest mound. One memorable scene showed him scratching at the dirt with the male bird alongside busily scratching the dirt back onto the mound.
Malleefowl males make a nest by scratching earth, leaves, sticks and other vegetation into a mound, often 2 – 3 metres across and 1.5m high. The vegetation then rots, just like a compost heap, and the heat produced hatches the eggs. The eggs are placed in the mound by the female, often laying 20 – 30 eggs over the spring and summer months. The male then tends to the nesting mound, keeping the temperature at a constant level by adding more dirt, or removing it. On hatching, the chicks dig their way out of the dirt and then run off into the bush, tending for themselves from the first day.
The birding on our recent visit to Innes National Park at the southern tip of Yorke Peninsula was less than exciting. It was blowing a gale, overcast and threatening to rain. The birds were generally keeping a low profile and I don’t blame them.
Emus have a problem keeping low because of their size. As we entered the national park we found a small mob of five juvenile Emus wandering along quite unafraid of our vehicle only metres away. These birds are obviously quite used to cars and buses travelling along the roads in the park because it is a very popular holiday and day tripper destination here in South Australia.
This group was about three quarters adult size and I’d estimate that they were between 12 an 18 months old. They were also independent of their father. The male Emu sits on the eggs, hatches them and then cares for the young for up to 18 months.
If you look carefully at the photos (click to enlarge the image) observe how the strong wind is creating an interesting effect on their tail feathers. Almost looks like they were not enjoying the wild weather either!