AUSTRALIAN KESTREL – The Australian Kestrel is our smallest falcon and one of our most frequently sighted raptors. It is often seen hovering over roads and field watching for small terrestrial mammals, insects and reptiles. Once they have their prey in sight, they plunge head-first towards the ground, pulling out of the dive at the last moment to strike with their feet.
AUSTRALIAN GREEN TREE FROG – The Australian Green Tree Frog or Dumpty Tree Frog is a species of tree frog native to Australia and Papua New Guinea, with introduced populations to New Zealand and the United States. The Green Tree Frog is larger than most Australian frogs, reaching 10 centimetres in length. Due to physical and behavioural traits, the Green Tree Frog is one of the most recognisable frogs in the region and is a popular exotic pet throughout the world! The average life span of the frog in captivity is about 16 years. Tree frogs are docile and suited to living near human dwellings. They are often found on windows and inside houses, eating insects drawn by the light. The skin secretions of the frog have antibacterial and antiviral properties that may prove useful in pharmaceutical preparations.
AUSTRALIAN MAGPIE – One of the most common and most familiar Australian bird, the Magpie lives in family parties and can be very aggressive during nesting season. The sociable Pied Bell-Magpie can be found in groups of up to 20 and is antagonistic towards other birds. They have a loud flute-like warble and often mimic other sounds.
AUSTRALIAN NATIVE BUSH MOUSE – A very small member of the rodent family, the Bush Mouse is as big as your middle finger and has strong back legs for getaway speed. They have sharp teeth and claws to dig for grubs. They can be cream, brown, black or sand in colour and live in bushland or desert. They make their homes out of dead grass, leaves, sticks and sometimes sand. They eat nuts, grass, vegetables, leaves, grubs and flowers and (like squirrels) store food for cold winter months. Mothers have five to six babies in a litter – as big as a fingernail. Babies are carried in their mother’s pouch – or on her back as they get bigger.
AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCK – The Australian Wood Duck is found in grasslands, open woodlands, wetlands and along the coast in inlets and bays. It is also common on farmland with dams, as well as around rice fields and lakes. It is a medium-sized ‘goose-like’ duck with a dark-brown head and a pale-grey body with two black stripes along the back. Males have a darker head and small dark mane. Wood ducks walk easy on land and will only take to open water when disturbed. They eat grasses, clovers, herbs and insects.
BLUE TONGUE LIZARD – Largest member of the skink family, the good-natured, snail-loving, dog food-stealing Blue Tongue Lizard are welcome pest controllers in Australian gardens. The Blue Tongue Lizard is a reptile and has little scales over lapping on its back.
BROWN HARE – Descendant from the European Brown Hare, the Australian Brown Hare can run at speeds of up 72km per hour. They usually live in pairs, but a ‘drove’ is the collective noun for a group of hares. Normally a shy animal, the behaviour of hares change in springtime when the males compete for dominance. Unlike rabbits, Hares live in simple nests above the ground. Hares are larger than rabbits, with longer ears and have black markings on their fur.
BRUSHTAIL POSSUM – The brushtail possum – like its close relative the ringtail possum – is widespread throughout Australia and is a major pest since introduced. The species is widely trapped and sold to the fur trade in Australia.
COCKATIEL – The Cockatiel, also known as the Quarrion and the Weiro, is the smallest and genuinely miniature cockatoo endemic to Australia. They are prized as a household pet and companion parrot throughout the world. Cockatiels are relatively easy to breed and, as a caged bird, are second only in popularity to the Budgerigar.
CROCODILES – There are two kinds of crocodile in Australia – the Estuarine (saltwater) and Johnsons (freshwater). Both are found in the hot, tropical north of the continent. Both eat meat and have thick, scaly skin. The Estuarine crocodile lives in saltwater, but can go far up rivers into freshwater. Varying is size from four to seven metres, it is the biggest and heaviest – and one of the most dangerous – of all crocodiles. The Johnson crocodile lives mostly in freshwater and grows up to three metres long. It can live in saltwater and is considered to be dangerous even though it is not known for attacking humans. Crocodiles grab their prey and move to deep water, where they roll over and drown the animal. They can leap high out of the water to reach their prey if necessary.
ECHIDNA – Echidnas (also known as spiny anteaters) are small mammals covered with coarse hair and spines. They resemble the anteaters of South America and other spiny mammals like hedgehogs and porcupines. Their diet consists mainly of ants and termites. Echnidnas belong to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals. There are four extant species, which together with the Platypus are the only surviving members of that order and the only extant mammals that lay eggs.
EMU – The Emu is Australia’s largest native bird – and third largest in the world behind the Ostrich and Cassowary. The Emu stands 1.5 to two metres tall, has an average weight of 36 kilograms, three toes and long legs that allows them to run extremely fast. The Emu’s nest can be up to 1.5 metres wide and Emus lay up to 20 eggs when nesting. The eggs are prized by other animals for food and by humans as decorative pieces.
FOXES – The European Fox was introduced into Australia in the early 1870s for recreational hunting purposes. The spread of the fox closely followed the distribution of rabbits across mainland Australia. Today, foxes are found in most areas of the mainland south of the tropics and, unfortunately, are believed to have been deliberately released in Tasmania. Foxes cause environmental damage by preying on many species of Australian native wildlife – birds, small mammals and reptiles. They contribute significantly to the extinction of some species of native wildlife, and create economic damage to farm livestock – lambs, calves, poultry and goats. The national cost of direct fox attacks on lambs is estimated at more than $100 million annually.
FRILLED-NECK LIZARD – This amazing little reptile became an Australian icon by way of its appearance on the now defunct two-cent coin. They are between 70-90cm long and have a ‘frill’ around their head, which opens out when the lizard is disturbed. It can run very fast or remain very still and match the colour of its surrounds to feed on unsuspecting insects and like prey.
FUNNEL-WEB SPIDERS – The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider remains an icon of fear and fascination for Sydneysiders. It is responsible for 13 recorded deaths and many medically serious bites. There are at least 40 species of Funnel-Web Spiders – not all are known to be dangerous, but several are renowned for their highly toxic and fast-acting venom. This remarkable spider has become part of Sydney’s folklore, but no deaths have been recorded since the introduction of the antivenom in 1981.
GULLS – Gregarious web-footed seabirds mostly occurring on coasts, islands and at sea – usually not far from shore. Some species live on, or visit, inland wetlands and some are migratory. They make untidy nests on the ground in colonies and most feed by scavenging. Two large gulls, Pacific and Kelp – and a smaller species, Silver, are resident in Australia.
KANGAROO – The Australian Red and the Eastern Grey are the two best known species of the famous Australian kangaroo – one of the most recognizable and unique animals in the world. The Red Kangaroo is better known by reputation but the Eastern Grey is the species most commonly seen in southern and eastern Australia. The Red Kangaroo frequents the semi-arid inland and – at around 85 kg – is significantly larger than the 65 kg two metre tall Eastern Gray. Both marsupials graze on a variety of grasses but the Red Kangaroo includes significant amounts of shrubs in its diet. Kangaroos are a most unique animal with powerful hind legs that can generate power and speed. The Eastern Grey Kangaroo has been clocked at 64 kilometres per hour. The female is almost permanently pregnant and nurtures her young in a front pouch. Numbers of the Eastern Grey have increased significantly in recent times to more than two million and culling programs have been introduced.
KOALAS – Another uniquely Australian mammal, the koala – like the Greater Glider and Ringtail Possum – can survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves. It is a small bear-like, tree dwelling herbivorous marsupial which averages about 9 kilograms in weight with thick, ash grey fur. Koalas, like humans, live in societies and need to have contact with other koalas. The koala has an excellent sense of balance and its body is lean and muscular – with long strong limbs to support its weight when climbing. There are over 700 types of eucalypts in Australia but koalas will only eat from 40 to 50 of these varieties.
KOOKABURRA – Large terrestrial Kingfishers (28-42cms) native to Australia and New Guinea with loud, laughing calls. Kookaburras are carnivorous and feed mainly on reptiles and large invertebrates. They generally occur and nest in small parties in tree hollows or tunnels dug in termite mounds. Kookaburras are among Australia’s most famous fauna and have been feted in many ways – song, postage stamps, sporting teams and even on coins.
OWLS, EAGLES, HAWKS AND FALCONS – There are 24 diurnal raptor and 10 owl species native to Australia. While owls are not taxonomically classed with diurnal raptors, or birds of prey, they share many of the physiological characteristics, requirements and traits of diurnal raptors – eagles, hawks and falcons. Owls have hooked bills, are carnivorous and, significantly, use their powerful feet to catch and kill their prey.
PEREGRINE FALCON – The Peregrine Falcon is one of the world’s best-known raptor species. Famed as the fastest bird on Earth for its tremendous, high-speed dive when hunting, the Peregrine is a magnificent, highly specialised predator. It weeds out those individuals who are unsuccessful in the art of survival, thus playing a vital part in the ecosystem.
PYTHON – The Carpet Python or Diamond Python is a large snake with varied colour patterns. Eastern populations are pale or dark brown to olive green, with irregular dark-edged cream to pale-yellowish blotches. They grow up to four metres in length and feed on small animals such as rats, possums and birds. They are not venomous, but can deliver a painful bite. There are many varieties of pythons around Australia.
RABBITS – Since their introduction from Europe in 1859, the effect of Rabbits on the ecology of Australia has been devastating. Rabbits are suspected of being the most significant known factor in species loss in Australia. The impact of loss of plant species is still unknown, but Rabbits often kill young plants and trees by ringbarking them. Rabbits are also responsible for serious soil erosion problems as they eat native plants, leaving the top soil exposed and vulnerable to sheet, gully and wind erosion.
RED-BELLIED BLACK SNAKE – Another of Australia’s dangerous snake species – extremely venomous – the Red-Bellied Black Snake is found in bushland around south-eastern Australia. The Pseudechis porphyriacus is generally iridescent in colour and grows to an average length of 1.5 metres.
SULPHUR-CRESTED COCKATOO – A relatively large white cockatoo (45-55cms), the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is found in the wooded habitats in Australia and New Guinea. They can move in large flocks, leading them to be sometimes considered as pests. They are very popular in aviculture and have a loud, raucous call. They are similar to the three species of Corellas to be found in Australia – but Corellas are smaller with pale bills and lack the prominent yellow crest. The birds are very long-lived, and can live upwards of 70 years in captivity!
WALLABIES – A Wallaby is like a small Kangaroo. Like Kangaroos, they are part of the group called ‘macropods’, which means ‘great footed animals’. There are many varieties of Wallabies found all over Australia, with the Eastern Grey Wallaby the most prevalent of the species. Like all macropods, Wallabies have strong back legs with long feet. They hop on their back legs when travelling fast, using their tail as a balance. They are marsupials and the females have front opening pouches in which they carry their young. Wallabies eat the leaves of bushes as well as grass. They are active at night and rest during the day.
WEDGE-TAILED EAGLE – The Wedge-Tailed Eagle is unique to Australia. It belongs to the same genus (Aquila) as the Golden Eagle. Wedge-Tailed Eagles usually weigh in between 3.5 and 6 kg – with a wing span of six to eight feet. This eagle carries out a vital role in the environment that benefits farmers. They clean up carrion, which removes breeding opportunities for flies, thereby reducing the incidence of fly strike among sheep.