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Keywords:

  • arid habitats;
  • diet;
  • feeding strategies;
  • food availability;
  • introduced species;
  • megapode;
  • species survival

Abstract Prime mallee lands that once supported high densities of malleefowl, Leipoa ocellata in New South Wales have been extensively cleared for agriculture. Malleefowl are now restricted largely to more and habitat. Given the added competition from introduced herbivores, there is concern that these marginal habitats may not contain sufficient food resources to support viable populations of malleefowl, particularly in times of drought. An opportunistic feeding strategy and omnivorous diet enable malleefowl to exploit a diverse array of food items. Vegetative and invertebrate food resources available to malleefowl in marginal mallee lands were monitored over a period of 1 year during drought. Food resources were varied, transient and patchily distributed. Composition and abundance fluctuated considerably, but potential food was never entirely absent. Despite the prevailing drought, food was obtainable throughout the year provided malleefowl adapted to the fluctuating availability of each of the various potential food resources. Reduced food resources in marginal habitat is not implicated as a major factor in the demise of the malleefowl. Food was most abundant between August and November, inclusive, due largely to the abundance of herbs, the diverse supply of buds, flowers and fruit on perennial shrubs, and the sporadic proliferation of cockroaches. Food availability was least, and therefore most critical, during February, March and June. The most favourable time of the year, in terms of available food resources, for the release of captive-bred individuals was during spring, around September.