Notification: Parks and Wildlife Service is part of the new Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

Bilby
Photo courtesy Save the Bilby Fund

The bilby (Macrostis lagostis) 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.

The bilby is recognised as a threatened species under State and Commonwealth legislation. In Western Australia, the species is listed as fauna that is ‘likely to become extinct’ (Specially Protected) under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and has been assigned the threat status raking of Vulnerable using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria. Nationally it is also listed as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and internationally on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable.

Report any sightings of bilbies by sending an email or a fauna report form, with a photo of the animal, if you have one, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Refer to the pdfBilby fauna profileinformation sheet for more information about bilblies. 

Where are bilbies found?

bilby map Illustration of the North (N) and South (S) portioning of ecological and land use threats (click to enlarge) – Image from Bradley et al, 2015.

Historically, the bilby was found across most of the arid and semi-arid areas of mainland Australia. Since European settlement, the species has experienced a large decline. In Western Australia, it is now restricted to the Gibson, Little Sandy and Great Sandy Deserts, and parts of the Pilbara, Dampierland, Central Kimberley and Ord-Victoria Plains bioregions. It also occurs across to the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory, and there are disjunct subpopulations in the Channel Country and Mitchell Grass Downs bioregions in Queensland.

The bilby continues to occupy a wide range of vegetation types, with the major vegetation types defines as:

  • open tussock grassland on uplands and hills,
  • mulga woodland/shrubland growing on ridges and rises, and
  • hummock grassland (spinifex) growing on sandplains and dunes, drainage systems, salt lake systems and other alluvial areas.

 Refer to NatureMap for further information regarding the distribution of this species.

Main threats to bilbies

  • Predation by foxes, feral cat and wild dogs.
  • Competition with, and habitat degradation by, introduced herbivores (rabbits, cattle, camel).
  • Inapproriate fire regimes.
  • Climate change leading to a drier climate.
  • Habitat loss and degradation due to mining and other developments.
  • Road mortality.

Recovery plan

Pavey, C. (2006). National Recovery Plan for the Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagostis). Northern Territory: Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts.

The Recovery Plan outlines actions that are being implemented to improve the conservation status of the bilby:

  • Reduce the impact of predation by foxes, wild dogs and feral cats.
  • Maintain genetic diversity.
  • Conduct reintroductions within the species' former range.
  • Monitor trends in occurence and abundance.
  • Assess the impact of predators, fire and other threatening processes.
  • Raise community awareness and involve stakeholders in the recovery process.

The National Bilby Recovery Team, with membership including the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, was re-established in 2016 to guide the recovery actions undertaken for bilby conservation.

Current bilby research

The Department is the key agent undertaking research on the bilby in Western Australia, with a focus on improving ecological and distributional information to inform adaptive management practices.

The Pilbara bilby research program, funded by environmental offsets derived from resource development, is supported by several mining companies, environmental consultancies, CSIRO and traditional owner groups.

A coordinated Kimberley bilby program is being established, and will build on the existing work of WWF, Environs Kimberly, Rangeland NRM, Kimberley Land Council and numerous traditional owner ranger groups. Both programs are focusing on bilby distributional survey, population monitoring and adaptive threat abatement activities at a landscape scale.

Successful reintroductions have been undertaken in South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, including into fenced enclosures and onto islands. A national captive breeding program, as part of a Zoo and Aquarium Association conservation program, has been running since 1995.

Bilby surveys

Surveys for the threatened greater bilby may be required in WA where development or land management activities are proposed that could potentially affect the species and/or habitat suitable for the species. Guidelines have been developed for detecting current or recent presence, or asserting the absence of bilbies, and assessing the importance of the habitat proposed to be impacted. The latest version of the guidelines and a datasheet are provided below. Please note that these guidelines will be subject to change as new information about bilbies becomes available.

pdfGuidelines for surveys to detect the presence of bilbies, and assess the importance of habitat in WA97.47 KB

pdfBilby sign plot datasheet469.38 KB

 Further information