What is a bandicoot and where are they found?

A bandicoot is a small marsupial found only in Australia.

The rabbit-eared bandicoot or bilby. Photo©Getty Images

The rabbit-eared bandicoot or bilby. Photo©Getty Images

There are about twenty kinds of bandicoot, including the northern brown, long-nosed, southern brown, eastern barred and western barred bandicoots. The western barred bandicoot is now only found on a few islands in Shark Bay, Western Australia. The eastern barred bandicoot is now found only in Tasmania and in a few places in Victoria. The rabbit-eared bandicoot is more commonly called the bilby.


Physical features of bandicoots

Bandicoots are mostly solitary animals, which means they are generally on their own.They are about the size of a small cat. They have a pointy snout, humped back and a thin tail. A female bandicoot has a backward facing pouch. This is so that when she is digging, she doesn't fill her pouch with soil.


This is a long-nosed bandicoot. Bandicoots are active at night. Getty images

This is a long-nosed bandicoot. Bandicoots are active at night. Getty images

Bandicoots live on the ground in areas where there are low-growing plants. In some parts of Australia, they even visit people's gardens.


They are omnivores, and search on the ground looking for insects, spiders, seeds, berries and other similar food. When looking for food they dig in the soil and rummage in the fallen leaves on the ground. They hold their food in their front paws to eat it.


Bandicoots are nocturnal, so are mostly active at night and in the day they generally shelter in nests that are piles of leaf litter scratched together. When moving fast they bound and gallop.


Life Cycle of bandicoots

Marsupials are not pregnant for very long, so that when the young are born, they are very tiny and hardly developed at all. They move into their mother's pouch to complete their development. Unusually for marsupials, bandicoots in the womb are attached to it by cords, and after they are born, the young climb the cords to reach the mother's pouch. The young of the northern brown bandicoot and the long-nosed bandicoot are in the womb for only twelve and a half days, the shortest time of any marsupial. Inside the pouch, the young drink milk from teats as they grow and develop, and when big enough are moved to a nesting burrow.

The rabbit-eared bandicoot, or bilby

The greater bilby is also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot, greater bandicoot, dalgyte, ninu, or walpajirri.  It is the largest of the bandicoots. The lesser bilby, the other of the two kinds of bilby, is presumed to be extinct as none has been seen in the wild since 1931.

The greater bilby is now found only in central Australian desert areas. The bilby's natural habitat is spinifex, or grass shrubland. Because there is little surface water in places where bilbies live, the animals get their moisture from their food. They eat insects such as termites, seeds, fruit and fungi.

 The bilby's fur is long and silky, silvery grey in colour. The underside (tummy and chest) is white. It has a long tail that is black with a long white tip. The ears are long and pointed, covered with fine fur. Big ears like this help give the animal excellent hearing, which helps it find prey. An excellent sense of smell also helps it find food. The eyes are round, dark, and big, but the bilby has poor eyesight. Its long muzzle tapers to a pointed, pink nose. The toes on its front feet have slightly curved claws. On the hind feet, the second and third toes are partially joined and the fourth toe is much larger. Females generally give birth to two young at a time.

Bandicoots get killed on the roads at night. This is a road sign warning that bilbies are in the area. Photo©Getty Images

Bandicoots get killed on the roads at night. This is a road sign warning that bilbies are in the area. Photo©Getty Images

Conservation status

Some desert species of bandicoot are extinct and the remaining species are endangered. They are affected by habitat change, but are also killed by feral cats and foxes, an introduced species. Their burrows are trampled by cattle, an introduced species. They have to compete for food with rabbits, an introduced feral species.

With its rabbit-like ears, the bilby is sometimes called the Easter Bilby that brings eggs at Easter time instead of the Easter Bunny!

This is because in Australia rabbits are a serious pest in the wild and are part of the reason bilbies are endangered.


Read about the bilby


Read more about bandicoots


If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:

Sydenham, Shirley. & Thomas, Ron. 2017. Bandicoots [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au