Australia is home to a diverse mix of magnificent Australian wildlife and it is truly amazing what you can come across while travelling around the country. We are blessed with fabulous fauna mostly harmless to humans and exciting to encounter in the wild.
There are many species of vividly coloured parrots inhabiting the heavily timbered ranges and rainforests in Australia. Males and females of the same species have different markings to make them distinguishable. Their plumage colours are brilliant and these noisy little creatures have the ability to mimic sounds.
Kookaburras are iconic Australian birds found all over the country and are characterised by their signature call which sounds very much like high-pitched laughter. There are several species of Kookaburras in the Australian wildlife, all of which are carnivores feeding on insects, rodents, reptiles and small birds.
Wedge-tailed Eagles are the largest bird of prey in Australia and are found all over the continent, particularly in sparser landscapes. These carnivorous birds hunt from high in the sky, stretching their wings up to a span of 2.5 metres. They have exceptional eyesight and strong beaks and claws which they use to attack their prey. “Wedgies” basically feed on anything that moves and sometimes even attack larger creatures such as kangaroos and livestock. Rabbits, wallabies and reptiles are their main diet and carcasses resulting from road-kill are another common source of food. These impressive and powerful creatures are an extraordinary species of Australian wildlife.
Brolgas are a grey crane with long legs and a red head. They are known for their impressive dancing, particularly in mating season when they put on an energetic display. Brolgas inhabit wetlands, plains and pastures in northern Australia and the eastern states and feed on grass, crops, insects and the occasional rodent or frog.
Jabirus are the black and storks of Australian wildlife,with long red legs, long black beaks and dark blue-green heads and necks. They inhabit wetlands in northern Australia and feed on insects, fish, amphibians and reptiles. These wading birds reach up to 1.5m tall and have a wing span over 2m. Jabirus are an endangered species of Australian wildlife.
Emus are flightless running birds with long necks and legs and are the largest native birds in Australia. They can be found all over the continent, however prefer remote areas with sparse vegetation. The emu’s form of defense is to kick with its powerful legs or run in a haphazard zigzag way to avoid flying predators. Emus are unlikely to attack humans, however it is not wise to approach them. Emus are a common form of Australian wildlife.
Cassowaries are large flightless birds found in the rainforests of far north Queensland. They are easily recognised with a thick black hair-like plumage, bright blue neck and pointy head. Cassowaries feed on seeds, plants and insects in the forest and can be aggressive if approached. The Southern Cassowary is striking in appearance and is unique to Queensland's Australian wildlife.
Little Penguins are flightless seabirds which live and breed along Australia’s south coast, on offshore islands and along the coast of Tasmania. They have a furry coat, webbed feet, flippers and a bill. Little Penguins grow to about 30cm tall, waddle upright on land and swim like fish in the sea. Their homes are burrows consisting of a tunnel leading to a den and some colonies are lucky enough to have man-made igloos. These Penguins fish all day and return at dusk to feed their young. Little Penguin colony locations offering viewings and tours of Australian wildlife at its best include Penguin Island less than 1km off the coast of Rockingham WA, Summerlands on Phillip Island VIC, Manly Cove north of Sydney NSW and Bicheno and Burnie in Tasmania.
Koalas are found in bushlands in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. They are tree-dwelling marsupials who raise their young in their pouch and feed on specific types of Eucalyptus leaves. Their low energy diet keeps them generally inactive during the day and brings them out at night to feed. Koalas are timid around humans and should not be approached as this can lead to stress. These precious native animals are subject to threats of loss of habitat, the Chlamydia disease, dog attacks and road kill. The Australian Koala Foundation in conjunction with local councils is working on preserving land for the conservation of Koalas and their much needed habitats. There are also several Koala Hospitals and Conservation Centres on the east coast caring for sick and injured Koalas, running breeding programs and providing safe habitats for the much loved Australian Koalas.
Kangaroos are intriguing marsupials with large hind legs and feet, a strong tail used for balance and small front paws. They can stand up tall on their hind legs or move about slowly on all fours. Kangaroos have a unique way of travel, hopping on their hind legs at speeds of up to 50km/hour. They are herbivores and eat grass, shoots and shrubs and live all over the country on treeless plains and in dense bushland, although never too far from a reliable water source. The large population of kangaroos in Australia makes them the most common form of road kill, particularly as they travel quickly and can be startled by vehicle noise and headlights, forcing them to stop or jump in front of oncoming traffic. Be careful on Australian roads and watch out for our Australian wildlife. Kangaroos are especially at risk of road kill at night-time and in the outback. Kangaroos are iconic Australian wildlife and are consequently the national emblem. They are harmless to humans.
Rock Wallabies can be described as miniature kangaroos, living amongst boulders and rocky hills. As part of the kangaroo family, these marsupials leap and bound amongst their rocky habitat on their hind legs with agility and speed. They tend to hide and rest during the heat of the day and come out at night to feed. Some are surprisingly inquisitive and if you are quiet and still and lower down to their level they might just come to you. Interacting up close with Australian wildlife is an amazing experience.
Camels are tall animals with long necks, humps on their backs used to store fat (not water) and a woolly coat. They were introduced to Australia in the 1800’s as workers and transport and today the wild camels roaming the country’s deserts are considered to be feral. Camels inhabit deserts and pastoral land in WA, NT, SA and QLD. The lack of predators to control the camel population results in continual growth each year which is becoming a concern as environmental impact is at stake. Camels, particularly in the wild, are unpredictable so keep clear of them in the outback.
Dingoes are not native to Australia and are believed to be related to wild dogs in Asia. They are found in each state on the Australian mainland, but not in Tasmania. Dingoes are more prolific in the outback and tend to inhabit areas close to water sources. They are carnivores and prey on native fauna and livestock and should definitely not be fed or approached by humans. If a dingo approaches you stand tall and slowly back away, speak with a confident commanding voice and do not turn your back and run as you may encourage a chase and potential attack.
Echidnas are found in bushlands throughout Australia and are one of two only egg laying mammals in the world. They are harmless to humans as they would rather retreat then fight or attack. If approached or startled they will generally move away and curl themselves into a ball, tucking their snout and legs in, protecting themselves with their sharp spiky coats.
Flying Foxes inhabit the coastal areas from central Western Australia, across the Top End and all along the east coast to southern Victoria. There are several species and they are all protected Australian wildlife, some endangered. Prolific and pests in some areas, it may seem unbelievable that they are a protected species. The reasons being they have a very low breeding rate and lose habitats due to human interference and urban progress. Flying foxes are not a threat to humans.
Platypuses are egg-laying mammals with duck-like bills, flat webbed feet and furry coats. These intriguing creatures are found in eastern Australia in river systems around the Great Dividing Range and in Tasmania. They are excellent divers and swimmers and feed mainly on insects and shrimp. Their defense mechanism are the poisonous spurs on the back of their hind legs. Platypuses are harmless and timid creatures and avoid confrontation with humans, however being spiked by their spurs could lead to serious illness.
are land and sea-dwelling mammals with four flippers, which they use to walk on land and swim in the sea. They have facial whiskers and a hairy coat, the females weighing up to 120kg and the males 400kg. Sea Lions live in colonies and there are locations along the south coast where viewings are possible, including Point Labatt which is 60km south of Streaky Bay in South Australia and Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Sea Lions are a protected species and are generally harmless to humans.
White-lipped Tree Frogs are found in the tropics of northern Queensland and along the Cape York Peninsula coastline. These harmless creatures are sensitive to the climate and are generally quiet during the day and come out at night to feed and mate. White-lipped Tree Frogs are characterised by the white stripe which borders their lower lip and also stripes their legs. These frogs are usually bright green but can change with the environment and temperature.
Green Tree Frogs inhabit mainly wet tropics areas in northern and eastern Australia. These gentle amphibians are nocturnal due to their sensitive skin and tend to sleep by day and hunt by night. They can range in colour from shades of greens to browns depending on the temperature and background. Interestingly these frogs make a squeaking noise when touched.
Sea Turtles are reptiles of the sea and Australia has 6 of the 7 marine species known worldwide. Turtles have a long neck, beak-like mouth, flippers and a large shell on their back. All of Australia’s turtles are protected species and some are classed as endangered, the others vulnerable. Reproduction occurs by male and female mating in the sea and then the female comes ashore to find a suitable place on the beach to dig a hole for her nest. She then lays between 50 and 250 eggs and fills in the hole and returns to sea. Some 2 months later the hatchlings emerge and make their way to the sea, only a minute percentage surviving due to predators. Turtles are harmless to humans.
are water-dwelling reptiles with thick skin, armour body plates and powerful jaws with sharp teeth. Crocodiles inhabit the northern waters of Australia usually from Broome in Western Australia and across the Top End to Rockhampton in Queensland, although some sightings have occurred further south. There are 2 types of Crocodiles in Australia, the Saltwater (Estuarine)
and Freshwater (Johnstoni)
species. “Salties” are the largest of their kind at 4-5 metres in length and are extremely dangerous. They are potential man-eaters and cunning predators. “Freshies” are more timid and are generally not aggressive towards humans unless threatened. They average 1.5-3 metres in length. Other than size the most distinctive visual difference is their snouts. Salties have a very broad snout and freshies have a narrow tapered snout. Salties inhabit rivers, creeks, floodplains, lagoons, billabongs and coastal waters. They can be found in both salt and fresh water bodies. Freshies inhabit freshwater billabongs, lakes, swamps, rivers and creeks. Be very cautious around waterways in Australia’s north as Crocodile attacks do occur every year as these creatures stalk and surprise their prey. They are a fascinating Australian wildlife species and very intriguing, particularly to overseas tourists, who aren't familiar with the waterways and extreme potential danger. So we can't stress enough, if you don't know the area and not absolutely certain that swimming is safe, keep well away from the water's edge and avoid the tragic possibilities.
Bobtail Lizards are part of the Blue-tongue Lizard family and are found in dry to arid parts of southern Australia. The well known and easily recognisable lizard is characterised by its stumpy tail and blue tongue. These lizards are often seen warming themselves on roads so be cautious and try to avoid them. They are harmless to humans.
are found all over the Australian mainland from coastal bushland to inland deserts. There are several species and these powerful lizards with strong legs and sharp claws forage for large insects and may be seen feeding on road kill. They certainly aren’t shy and often approach tourists in search of food. They are harmless to humans however should not be provoked.
are found all over Australia and there are many different species, some venomous and some not. Most of us don’t know much about the different types of Australian snakes so as a general rule keep away from them all. Snakes tend to hide and do not confront people, they will flee if they can. It’s not likely you’ll see many, if any, snakes when exploring Australia. Always keep an eye on the track ahead of you when walking and if you see one keep calm, stand still and let it slowly pass or retreat. Pictured below are two types of Pythons which are harmless to humans, however should still be left alone. Only a very small percentage of the many Australian snake species are potentially fatal and the chances of an encounter are minute. Regardless, they are still one of the most feared Australian wildlife around.
Livestock is something else you’ll need to keep a look out for in the Australian outback. Cattle seem to be everywhere as nothing is fenced off on these enormous properties. Proceed with caution if you see them, even roadside, as they are unpredictable and may just run across the road in front of your vehicle. Give you horn a good workout and they generally take off pretty quickly!
Appreciating Australian wildlife is all part of the amazing adventure when travelling around Australia. There are so many photo opportunities to be taken advantage of if you’re in the right place at the right time. Remote travel certainly puts on the best display of Australian wildlife and you’ll find yourselves in awe of the magnificent landscapes and the intriguing creatures which inhabit them.
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