Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Mallee

Bring back the hats, I say. Aren't they fabulous? So for this week's Sepia Saturday theme photo I had to go searching through my albums for photos of men in hats. It turns out I have quite a few but somehow one stood out, and it's taking me off on a tangent.

Uncle Jack Larkin has lived most of his 90 years in the north-west of Victoria, Australia. He farmed wheat in an area that we call the mallee. Mallee is dry sandy country that supports mallee eucalypt trees that are short and multi-stemmed. Uncle Jack developed a strong conservation ethic at a time when it was unusual and loved every aspect of his natural and social environment.

Here he is (with folded arms) in the middle of some mallee with a mate and I'm on theme because they're both wearing the obligatory hats. Hats were also essential because the summers in the north of Victoria are extremely long and hot.  They are standing next to a malleefowl nest.

Jack Larkin and a mate admiring a malleefowl nest in Victoria's mallee.
And this is where I go off on a tangent because I'm going to talk about malleefowls. They are astonishing birds.

Malleefowls live in the mallee and are about the size of a large domestic chicken. In winter the male starts to build a nest on the ground. He scrapes out a hole about a metre across and deep and then starts to fill it with organic material - leaves, bark and sticks - gleaned from the surrounding area. He mounds the organic material then covers the whole lot with a layer of sand. After it rains he turns and mixes the material and the female lays two or three eggs which are covered with the material. The birds don't sit on the eggs at all. The male continues to add sand to the top layer as the temperature increases in summer and the rotting vegetation creates its own heat. The remarkable thing is that the temperature of the nest is regulated every day by the removal or addition of sand and organic matter The male tests the temperature with his tongue and he maintains it at a temperature of 33 degrees centigrade. After about 100 days the newly-hatched chicks dig their way out - not an easy job and it takes from 2 to 15 hours! And, after all the effort by the male during the incubation, the adults have nothing to do with them after they've emerged. They're on their own. You can read more about these fascinating birds here.

All of this for two or three eggs.

So there you are. Nothing to do with hats at all, but you can see what others have written about hats over on the Sepia Saturday page.


  1. An amazing bird. And birds are not that unconnected with hats. Some men's hats have a tiny feather tucked in the hat band at the side.

  2. I was fascinated learning about that unusual bird.

  3. Two men on a mission indeed! I say, yes, bring back the hats! Not just baseball caps either.

  4. What an interesting & informative post. I wonder if the female not sitting on the eggs till they hatch is why both male & female - especially the female - are so unconnected to their offspring? Even though the male goes through all that wondrous business of maintaining the temperature until the babies hatch & make their way out, it's simply instinct I guess & doesn't connect him to the result, And apparently 'mama' lays her eggs & then goes off to party. I wonder if the male & female are monogamous? 'Mama' lays an awful lot of eggs in a year. It sounds like she might be a bit, er, flirtatious? I looked up the information on them, but it didn't mention anything about monogamy. Hmmm? :))

  5. The tangent makes perfect scene to me. The starting photo was great and I enjoyed learning about the mallee fowl.

  6. What a great combination and still on theme! It's nice to see an Australian bird that isn't a cockatoo. It's very handsome. Are they a game bird?

  7. No, not now (although I'm sure a few were on dinner tables in the past). They are actually vulnerable because their habitat is destoyed by clearing the vegetation for farming. Any active nest sites on public land are usually kept secret by the parks and wildlife people in order to protect them.

  8. Very tricky, finding a hat photo that segues into your other birding interest.

  9. What an interesting bird. it must be instinct to look after the eggs in that way. I can understand the need for wide brimmed hats in the sorts of temperatures you get down there.

  10. Now I have learned about a heretofor unknown bird to me....and what's a malee? Very interesting.

  11. Absolutely fascinating! Never heard of these birds. Though not as colorful as my feral peacock, it sure is a heck of a lot smarter!

  12. I wonder if you could wear a malleefowl feather to put in your hat. Fine picture leading into an interesting post.

  13. The wonders of Sepia Saturday, which now includes a natural history lesson! An amazing bird indeed.

  14. That's a lot of real estate for a bird.

  15. Nice way to bring about your main topic.
    What an odd bird!! Going through all of this trouble
    and then, having nothing to do with the offsprings,
    which first struck me as odd [for birds], but then,
    if you thinks of turtles who dig holes in the sand to lay their eggs,
    and leave... it doesn't seem so odd anymore.


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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