AN INSIGHT TO AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE
Whenever I travel abroad, I love to hear how foreigners imagine my home country of Australia, and specifically, the Australian wildlife.
Throughout my travels, I’ve heard many interesting interpretations of this beautiful country, and how many perceive its animals to really be. To a huge majority, there is an assumption that Australia is an incredibly dangerous country due to the title of having the most ‘dangerous animals in the world‘.
Even those that have no idea of the risks, most have the instant assumption that the country is full of animals and that kangaroo’s hop along the streets and koala’s drop from trees.
I was completely aware of the fact that I lived in a country with some very dangerous creatures, but I always found the remarks from foreigners completely and utterly hilarious. I always thought, ‘yeah we have wildlife, but not that much’.
And then one day I had a sudden realisation. I was sitting in my home, looking out the window and an echidna strolled over to the edge of the fish pond just a few metres away. Hundreds of galahs were squawking in the trees, 2 wedge-tailed eagles were circling above the house, a blue tongue lizard was under the gas tank, and on the same day, there were kangaroos and foxes in the paddock and possums in the trees.
This is when I realised, Australia really is full of wildlife… and that’s pretty damn neat!
So since I’ve now come to cherish how much Australian wildlife I’m surrounded by on the daily, I thought I’d share a little piece of the beauty with you.
The first thing a lot of people notice is that there’s a lot of birdlife here down under.
To put some things into perspective, I live around 45 minutes out of the centre of Melbourne city (not in the outback by any means) and I’m surrounded by birds all the time. Right now as I’m typing this, there are king parrots☟, rainbow lorikeets ☝︎, galahs ☝︎, magpies ☟, common myna’s, cockatoos and sparrows outside of the window. And almost every day there are a pair of wedge-tailed eagles circling above my house – No exaggeration.
So as you can probably tell, our birdlife is pretty neat!
One of the unique birds that we’re lucky enough to have as our own, is the Lyrebird. There are 2 species of these ground-dwelling birds, both of which are known for their incredible vocal talent.
A lyrebird’s song is the behaviour that makes them so distinct from the other species of birdlife. They sing throughout the entirety of the year, focusing on the breeding months, but will call for almost half of the daylight hours in each and every day.
The most interesting aspect of these otherwise beautiful creatures, is their ability to mimic unusual and unrecognised sounds. For example, they have been found to mimic other lyrebird calls, chainsaws, car alarms, dogs barks, music, whistles, camera shutters and human voices. Crazy or what?!
And now we get into the super cute critters!
Australia really is the land of small, cute, fluffy animals (in my opinion anyway). One my favourites that we have here, is the Wombat. A small, fluffy, bear-like critter that is part of the Marsupial family.
They are of a stocky build, with a backwards facing pouch, large claws and a diet of grass, bark and roots. They live in burrows and come out to play after the sun goes down.
I mean come on? It really doesn’t get any cuter than that! I have one that lives on my road, so I obviously had to name him Wally… Although, he sadly doesn’t seem to like me as much as I like him.
Another incredibly iconic Aussie animal is that Platypus. But to this day, I’m yet to see one in the wild. I’ve been told they live in the creek near my home, but I’ve never seen one, nor have I really looked. They’re a very strange, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, venomous, semi-aquatic animal that lives in the Eastern and South-Coast areas of Australia.
They live in freshwater lakes, rivers, lagoons, farm dams, and streams in burrows underneath the earth banks. I’d love to tell you where to find them, but I honestly have no idea.
They’re also one of only 5 mammal species that lay eggs instead of giving birth. The funny thing is, that the other 4 species are all Echidna! Another of our famous species that you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with – Australia sure does kick butt in terms of Monotremes.
The Echidna (feature image) is a small, solitary animal with a slender nose, big claws and a body almost entirely covered in spines and spikes. A bit like a porcupine or hedgehog, they curl themselves into a ball to protect themselves from predators.
Like most of the mammals in Australia, the only real threat to their existence is mankind.
Although one who’s existence is certainly in no danger, is the Kangaroo.
Our most iconic Australian animal, with almost 60 million on our soil, have recently bred out of control. The numbers are the highest on record since 2014, and these creatures have been creeping closer and closer to homes around the country. I have no doubt that most travellers to Australia will have the opportunity to see them in the wild, they’re basically everywhere.
Last year, a kangaroo sadly killed my families dog at no fault of its own. When threatened, kangaroo’s swoon their threat into water and attempt to drown them with their powerful back legs. It’s an act of defence which I can surely understand but unfortunately, this act is not a rare occurrence. In recent years there have been many videos and articles emerging of kangaroo’s banging on windows, killing dogs and coming very close to humans. It’s a problem that’s getting a little out of hand.
But regardless, the kangaroo is part of our Coat of Arms for good reason. They have incredibly powerful hind legs, huge feet, a muscular tail and a little head. They’re a very unusual animal to say the least, but also the one that I would see on the daily.
The Bilby, also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot is one of our most vulnerable marsupial species. They have a long bandicoot snout, a large mouse-like body and very large ears which radiate heat. They’re nocturnal omnivores that eat seeds, fruit, fungi, insects and sometimes small animals. They are also one of few animals that do not need to drink water, rather they obtain their moisture from food.
Now, here are 3 animals that you’ll surely recognise.
The Koala – The closest living relative to the wombat. A marsupial that lives in the trees, has a grey, tail-less body, big fluffy ears and a big round nose. Like the bilby, they don’t need to drink water, instead they get all of their needs from food, which is predominately Eucalyptus leaves. They also sleep for up to 18 hours a day and are very aggressive when mating – fun fact.
Only found in the island state of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Devil is a carnivorous marsupial that many assume to be a little ugly. They’re basically like a huge black mouse with a fat tail and long legs. Sadly their population is drastically decreasing and they’ve been listed as endangered for almost a decade – these may be a little hard to spot in the wild.
And one of my most recent obsessions, the Quokka; aka. The happiest looking critter to ever walk the earth. If there’s one animal you need to get a photo with… It’s definitely one of these.
The Quokka is the animal that’s recently taken Australia and the rest of the world by storm. This is simply because it’s incredibly cute, smiley and instantly makes a very impressive selfie. They’re found on small islands off of the coast of Western Australia, specifically at Rottnest and Bald Island – I’ve never visited, but I’ve decided that I really have to.
Another super cute animal that’s becoming a bit of a pest, are the Australian Possums. The most common – with a very obvious name – is the Common Brushtail Possum. They feed on fruit and the leaves of trees and are the largest of the possum family. These are the most common Australian wildlife that will potentially be spotted in and around the cities.
Something that I’ve heard a few times when abroad is “Yeah, you’re from the country of ‘a dingo ate my baby‘!” – It’s true. If you haven’t heard of this common phrase before, firstly where have you been? And secondly, where have you been?
This phrase from a woman who at the time, arguably lost her baby to a Dingo, suddenly became a laughing joke across the entire world. The phrase made it to many tv episodes on well-known comedy programs such as the Simpsons and Seinfeld. It even obtained its own movie ‘A Cry in the Dark’ which was based on the entire incident that occurred. Although there is evidence that a Dingo really did kill the 2-month-old child, it is still an arguable crime scene nearly 4 decades on!
As for dingoes, they are well known for being savage hunters on small animals such as rabbits and rodents, but are also very threatening to livestock such as sheep and young cattle. They also have a build that enables them to climb trees – Pretty crazy!
Although the ‘dingo ate my baby’ phrase has become the most well-known line in terms of Australian wildlife, our wild dogs really aren’t something you need to be terribly afraid of. Maybe don’t leave your young baby alone in the outback though.
Here in Australia, we have 2 types of large, flightless birds; the Cassowary and the Emu.
The emu is found all around the mainland of the country, whereas the cassowary is found in Northeastern Australia and in the tropical forests of New Guinea. Both are of similar builds, although the physical characteristics are actually quite different.
As you can see in the images above, the emu is totally brown in colour and have very soft feathers, a long neck, small head, and can run up to 50km an hour! The Cassowary is much the opposite. They have very coarse, sharp feathers, a bright blue head, a pinkish/red wattle and a horn-like casque on their heads. Much like the emu, they have incredibly strong legs and large claws.
Although the emu can run much faster, the cassowary is very agile and has been known to injure people and attack cars. You don’t want to mess with them, they can be very dangerous.
What many think of when they think of this country, is our ‘extreme’ insects and reptiles. It’s true, we have a whole lot of snakes, lizards, crocodiles, bugs and dangerous spiders.
I’m not going to lie, I’m not the big fan of the excessive amount of insects. Specifically the spiders that can put you in a hospital bed within a few minutes; the funnel web spiders, red back spiders, mouse-spiders, white tails and tarantulas are a few you don’t want to mess with. The huntsman spider (although it has a very concerning name) are non-aggressive. They do live inside homes and are about the size of a grown man’s hand though, but they’re really not all that dangerous. They’re not the easiest on the eye, but there are many more deadly spiders in the country to be wary of. Not to mention our large selection of deadly ants. Yep…
We also have some incredibly venomous snakes, the Common Brown Snake, Tiger Snake and the Red-Bellied Black Snake are the three that often come to mind when thinking of Australian reptiles. The family of brown snakes are responsible for more deaths than any other reptile species in the country.
On a nicer note, we have a lot of friendly lizards too. The most common, and one that I often see, is the Blue-Tongue Lizard. They’re very gentle in nature, they love to eat snails and are frequently welcomed into Australian gardens. As their name suggests, they have a bright blue tongue! These guys are much more scared of you than you are of them.
Now we’re onto the most lethal animal known the mankind!
The Australian Box Jellyfish is known the be the most deadly creature in the entire world due to its capability to kill a human in the matter of a few minutes. What many may not know, is that there are actually around 50 species of this jellyfish, and the most deadly in Australian Waters is the Chironex Fleckeri. They are the largest in the Box Jellyfish species and have 15 tentacles on each corner of their body that can reach up to 3 metres in length, each of which has thousands of stingers in every strand.
They are pale blue, translucent in colour, making them almost entirely invisible when in water. When these 2kg jellies strike, the outcome is almost always fatal; their venom instantly affects the heart, lungs, skin and nervous system, often resulting in cardiac arrest within just a few minutes depending on the severity of the sting.
They’re pretty deadly. Fortunately though, the death rate is not as high as some other animals in the sea, but they’re still something you must be aware of; being stung by one when solo in the ocean is a real recipe for disaster.
There you have it! I hope this helped you learn more about some of our amazing Australian wildlife. Yes, we really do have some very deadly creatures, but we also have many that will basically capture your heart. I mean, who couldn’t fall in love with a Quokka?
I’d love to know which your favourite is down below!
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