Bilbies eat bulbs, fruit, seeds, fungi, insects, worms, termites, small lizards and spiders. A favourite plant food is the bush onion or yalka which grows in desert sand plains after fires. Bilbies get most of their water requirements from food rather than from drinking, which means they can survive in habitats without access to free standing water.
Bilbies have an amazing ability to survive in a wide range of habitats and were once found on 70% of the Australian mainland. Today they are only found in small areas in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. They can be found anywhere from arid rocky soils with little ground cover to semi arid scrublands and woodlands. They particularly love Spinifex and tussock grasslands and acacia scrublands.
Bilbies are part of a unique group of mammals called marsupials. That means they give birth to live young at a very early stage of their development and the young develop while attached to a teat in a pouch on the outside of the females' body. Bilbies are even more unusual because they have a backwards facing pouch. This is a very useful adaptation because it means that when a female is digging away at the soil to hunt for food or build a burrow, the soil does not fill up in the pouch. Bilbies can give birth up to four times per year, as long as there is sufficient rainfall and food is available to them. They have the smallest gestation period of all the mammals; only 12-14 days. They give birth to up to 3 young per litter and the infant bilbies remain in the pouch of their mother for nearly 80 days. They stay in their mother’s burrow for another 2 weeks until they become independent.
Bilbies are mostly solitary, but sometimes live in small groups of up to four. They keep cool in the hot Australian summer by using their strong claws to dig spiral burrows up to 3 metres deep underground. Their large, hairless ears let heat from their body escape and they emerge in the cool of the night where they use their amazing sense of smell and hearing to find food and detect predators from far away.