Malleefowls have large feet and stocky legs for digging and building mounds. They forage for food on the ground and roost in trees at night. They do not fly long distances and tend to freeze rather than flee when disturbed. This species is known as lawan by the Wemba Wemba people of the Swan Hill area.
Malleefowls are wonderfully camouflaged with subdued and mottled plumage that matches the colours of their environment. However, the mounds that they build are conspicuous additions to the landscape, sometimes reaching over 20 metres wide.
The mounds are made by male Malleefowls from leaf litter and soil and take months to construct. Females lay their eggs are laid in a deep hole in the mound. Using their beaks as a thermometer, male Malleefowls monitor the mound’s temperature and add or remove material to maintain ideal incubation conditions.
Pairs of Malleefowls occupy large territories around the breeding mound. In September, females begin laying eggs, each up to 10% of her weight. The average clutch is around 18, and eggs begin hatching after 50–100 days, depending on temperature.
The hatchings are independent and dig their way out of the mound over 2–15 hours. Once they emerge, they leave the nest to fend for themselves. Many young Malleefowls die from starvation and predation.