The Malleefowl, or Lowan, - Leipoa ocellata - has grey head, neck and breast; the bill and area between bill and eye are grey. Throat is a light chestnut with black central streak down to breast. Upper parts barred white and blotched brown, black and grey. Under parts light fawn. Legs dark grey. Grows to 60 centimetres long. Juveniles are dull brown, barred.
Lives in dry inland scrub and mallee. Feeds by scratching in leaf litter.
Very shy and wary. If disturbed remains motionless (when its colouring makes it extremely difficult to see) or walks into concealing thickets. Flies only if surprised or pursued; flight is heavy and laboured. The photographs above show how mallee fowl colouring makes it very difficult to see in its native environment. These photographs were taken at a Mallee fowl sanctuary in the Little Desert in Victoria.
The mallee fowl is a mound builder and incubates its eggs by burying them in a mound of leaf litter. Mounds are usually about five metres in diameter and a metre high and formed as a circular mound around an inner pit (the egg chamber) which is filled in winter with leaf litter raked from under nearby trees with the mallee fowl's legs and feet. After rain saturates the litter the egg chamber is covered over with sand, the organic material begins fermenting and the temperature begins to rise.
By spring the mound is warm enough for egg laying. The bird opens the mound down to the egg chamber for the hen to lay; average clutch is 15 to 20 eggs; during drought only five may be laid or none in an extreme season.