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Wildlife of the Top End, Northern Territory Australia

antilopine200814p12cropenhLogolowres

Karndayh – female Antilopine Kangaroo

Here’s a full list of the mammals, reptiles and birds we’ve managed to see in our trips to the Top End since 2008. Most of these animals can be seen on our Wild Top End 6 day trip to Kakadu and Mary River National Parks:

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Badbong – Wilkins Rock Wallaby

MAMMALS

Dingo
Rock-wallaby – Wilkins (formerly Short-eared)
Wallaby – Agile
Kangaroo – Antilopine
Possum – Northern Brushtail
Flying-fox – Black
Flying-fox – Little Red

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Kornobolo – Agile Wallaby

REPTILES

Crocodile – Saltwater (Estuarine)
Crocodile – Freshwater
Python – Water
Snake – Slaty Grey
Snake – Common Tree
Dragon – Gilbert’s (Ta-ta Lizard)
Water Monitor – Mertens

Burarr - Mertens Water Monitor

Burarr – Mertens Water Monitor

Goanna – Gould’s

BIRDS

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Wandering & Manbarladjidji – Plumed Whistling-ducks and Manimunak – Magpie Geese

Goose – Magpie

Duck – Plumed Whistling-Duck

Manbarladjidji - Plumed Whistling-ducks

Manbarladjidji – Plumed Whistling-ducks

Duck – Wandering Whistling-Duck
Duck – Radjah Shelduck
Goose – Green Pygmy-goose
Duck – Pacific Black
Duck – Grey Teal
Duck – Pink-eared
Scrubfowl – Orange-footed
*Quail – Brown
Grebe – Australasian
Jabiru (Black-necked Stork)
Cormorant – Little Black
Cormorant – Pied
Cormorant – Little Pied
Darter
Pelican – Australian
Bittern – Black
Heron – White-necked (Pacific)
Egret – Great
Egret – Intermediate

Djakarna - Black-necked Stork (Jabiru)

Djakarna – Black-necked Stork (Jabiru)

Heron – White-faced
Egret – Little
Egret – Eastern Reef
Heron – Pied
Egret – Cattle
Heron – Striated
Heron – Nankeen Night
Ibis – Glossy
Ibis – Australian White
Ibis – Straw-necked
Spoonbill – Royal
Spoonbill – Yellow-billed
Osprey
Kite – Black-shouldered
Buzzard – Black-breasted
Eagle – Little
Eagle – Wedge-tailed
Harrier – Swamp

*Goshawk – Grey
Goshawk – Brown
Sparrowhawk – Collared
Kite – Black
Kite – Whistling
Kite – Brahminy
Sea-Eagle – White-bellied
Bustard – Australian
Rail – Buff-banded
Swamphen – Purple
Brolga

Ngalkordow - Brolgas

Ngalkordow – Brolgas

Stone-curlew – Bush
Stone-curlew – Beach
Stilt – Black-winged
Avocet – Red-necked
Oystercatcher – Australian Pied
Lapwing – Masked
Dotterel – Black-fronted
Dotterel – Red-kneed
Jacana – Comb-crested
Sandpiper – Common
Tattler – Grey-tailed
Greenshank – Common
Curlew – Eastern
Whimbrel
Plover – Pacific Golden
Grey Plover poss
Godwilt – Bar-tailed

Doddorok - Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon

Doddorok – Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon

Pratincole – Australian
Gull – Silver
Tern – Gull-billed
Tern – Caspian
Tern – Whiskered
Dove – Emerald
Pigeon – Crested
Pigeon – Partridge
Pigeon – Chestnut-quilled Rock-
Dove – Diamond
Dove – Peaceful
Dove – Bar-shouldered
Dove – Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove
Dove – Banded Fruit-Dove
Pigeon – Torresian Imperial
Cuckoo – Brush

Azure Kingfisher

Azure Kingfisher

Bronze-cuckoo – Little
Koel – Common
Cuckoo – Channel-billed
Coucal – Pheasant
Owl – Rufous
Owl – Barking
Boobook – Southern
Nightjar – Large-tailed
Kingfisher – Azure
Kingfisher – Little
Kookaburra – Blue-winged
Kingfisher – Forest
Kingfisher – Collared
Kingfisher – Sacred
Kingfisher – Collared
Bee-eater – Rainbow

Rainbow Bee-eater

Rainbow Bee-eater

Dollarbird
Kestrel – Nankeen
Hobby – Australian
Falcon – Brown
Falcon – Black
Black-cockatoo – Red-tailed
Galah
Corella – Little
Cockatoo – Sulphur-crested
Parrot – Red-winged
Rosella – Northern
Lorikeet – Red-collared (Rainbow)

Karnamarr - Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

Karnamarr – Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

Lorikeet – Varied
Pitta – Rainbow

Ngalelek - Little Corellas

Ngalelek – Little Corellas

Bowerbird – Great
Treecreeper – Black-tailed
Fairy-wren – Red-backed
Honeyeater – White-lined

Honeyeater – White-gaped
Miner – Yellow-throated
Honeyeater – Bar-breasted
Honeyeater – Rufous-banded
Honeyeater – Rufous-throated
Honeyeater – Dusky
Honeyeater – Red-headed
Honeyeater – Banded
Honeyeater – Brown
Honeyeater – White-throated
Honeyeater – Blue-faced
Friarbird – Little
Friarbird – Helmeted
Friarbird – Silver-crowned
Pardalote – Striated
Weebill
Gerygone – Green-backed
Gerygone – Large-billed
Gerygone – Mangrove
Babbler – Grey-crowned
Woodswallow – White-breasted
Woodswallow – Little
Butcherbird – Pied
Cuckoo-shrike – Black-faced
Cuckoo-shrike – White-bellied
Triller – White-winged
Triller – Varied
Shrike-thrush – Little
Shrike-thrush – Sandstone
Shrike-thrush – Grey
Whistler – Grey
Whistler – Rufous
Oriole – Olive-backed
Oriole – Yellow
Figbird

Australasian Figbird

Australasian Figbird

Drongo – Spangled
Fantail – Northern
Willie Wagtail
Fantail – Arafura (Rufous)
Mudlark (Magpie-lark)
Flycatcher – Leaden
Flycatcher – Broad-billed

Broad-billed Flycatcher

Broad-billed Flycatcher

Flycatcher – Paperbark
Flycatcher – Shining
Crow – Torresian
Flycatcher – Lemon-bellied
Martin – Tree
Reed-warbler – Australian
Grassbird – Tawny
Cisticola – Golden-headed
White-eye – Yellow
Mistletoebird
Finch – Crimson
Finch – Double-barred
Finch – Masked
Finch – Long-tailed
Mannikin – Chestnut-breasted

About Gurren: June 2015 Wild Koala of the Month!

Gurren is a strong male living near Koala Clancy in the You Yangs. We first met him in November 2012. He
was mature when we met him, so he’s probably about 7-9 years old now.

wild koala Gurren

Gurren has a very distinctive nose pattern! Can you see the white pattern inside his nostrils? This is
how we tell him apart from his neighbours Bungaleenee, Koala Clancy, Unaipon and Bundjalung.

He also has an unusual couple of dark spots in the fur beside his nose on his left – can you see that? Not
all koalas have that, and it can be a very useful identifying feature.

wild koala Gurren's nose pattern

June Koala of the Month Gurren had a special relationship with this lovely old lady Corrin. In 2013 & 2014
he was often seen in Corrin’s home range, and was by her side a lot, even outside of breeding season.

wild koala Corrin

We’ve found in our research that male koalas sometimes form an alliance with a high-ranking resident
female. It might be the key to achieving dominant male status.

Sadly for Gurren (and us) Corrin didn’t survive the heatwave in summer 2014. Since then Gurren has been
ranging more widely through the neighbourhood – like a lost lover searching for meaning in life. We hope
he can settle down with another lady.

wild koala Gurren

For more about our wild koalas and wild koala research project: http://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au/wildliferesearch

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Koalas are connected to everything!

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In nature, everything is connected. But some of the affinities between koalas and other animals might surprise you!

Honeyeaters, like this Eastern Spinebill, pollinate trees. Without honeyeaters, new trees will struggle to grow. No trees = no koalas.

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If Flame Robins didn’t eat insects, plants would suffer from insect overpopulation. Insects eat the leaves of many plants, eucalyptus included. Too many insects = no leaves on trees for koalas to eat.
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Even butterflies are important to koalas. Butterflies, like this Common Brown, pollinate native plants when they search for nectar to drink. Unlike bees, who pollinate a small area very effectively, butterflies can carry pollen large distances, which means they can bring new plants to an area and ensure an even spread of a diversity of plants. Plant diversity at the ground level helps other animals like wallabies thrive.
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Caterpillars, the babies of butterflies, eat plants. The caterpillar of the Common Brown eats grasses like Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra), which has a tendency to become too dominant in an area if not managed. Aboriginal People managed kangaroo grass with regular small fires, but now that is not happening, we are lucky to have Common Brown caterpillars!

Macropods (kangaroos, wallabies) make tracks through thick undergrowth as they search for food and water. When the undergrowth is thick, koalas use the tracks of kangaroos and wallabies to move around from tree to tree every day. If there are no tracks through thick undergrowth, a koala is in danger of predation by dogs, and they find it much harder to push through. Too much energy expended means a koala has less energy to breed.
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Grass-seed eaters, like Long-billed Corellas, spread the seeds of grasses and help control weeds like Onion Grass. Grassy woodlands are perfect habitat for koalas, providing easy movement from tree to tree.
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Koalas also benefit other species. Black-chinned Honeyeaters are a threatened small bird. They take fur from koalas to line their nests. Without koalas, who will the Black-chinned Honeyeaters get fur from? Wallabies don’t stay still long enough, possums are only out at night. Will baby Black-chinned Honeyeaters get too cold in their nests and die?

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Some creatures, like this Painted Honeyeater, have almost disappeared from koala habitat. Could this be why koalas are declining? We just don’t know.

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People often ask us why koalas are declining, even in National Parks. Truth is, no-one is really sure. Every region has different challenges, but overall, koalas are declining too rapidly for their long-term survival.

We don’t know the answer to koala decline, but we do know this: everything is connected. When Grey-crowned Babblers disappeared from the You Yangs, did that affect koalas? Maybe only slightly. When Tasmanian Pademelons, Eastern Barred Bandicoots, Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies and Dingoes disappeared did that affect koalas?   Slightly+slightly+slightly+slightly = a lot.

Fact is, we have lost insect, bird, reptile and plant species that koalas rely on from koala forests, yet we still expect koalas to breed well (but not too much) and live long healthy lives.  It is amazing that they are surviving at all.

The mammals of Victoria, Australia

Full List of Mammals of Victoria, Australia

Victoria has 103 native extant (living) mammal species.  They represent 28 families in 8 orders.  Victoria comprises only 3% of Australia’s total area, but is home to nearly 30% of her mammals.  Most of the major types of Australian mammals are present in this state: 2 of the 2 monotreme families; 11 of the 17 living marsupial families; 6 of the 8 bat families; 1 of the 1 family of native rodents and 8 of the 10 families of marine mammals.

Conservation Status in Victoria is noted beside each species thus: CR: Critically Endangered EN: Endangered VU: Vulnerable NT: Near Threatened DD: Data Deficient

MONOTREMES: Order Monotremata  (2)

Family: Ornithorhynchidae (1)

Ornithorhynchus anatinus (Platypus)

Family: Tachyglossidae (1) ECHIDNA

Tachyglossus aculeatus (Short-beaked Echidna)

MARSUPIALS: Infraclass Marsupialia (38)

Order: Diprotodontia (24)

Kangaroos, wallabies:  Suborder Macropodiformes (9)

Family: Macropodidae (7)

Macropus fuliginosus (Western Grey Kangaroo)

Macropus giganteus (Eastern Grey Kangaroo)

Swamp Wallaby

Swamp Wallaby

Eastern Grey Kangaroos

Eastern Grey Kangaroos

Macropus robustus (Eastern Wallaroo) EN

Macropus rufogriseus (Red-necked Wallaby)

Macropus rufus (Red Kangaroo)

Petrogale penicillata (Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby) CR

Wallabia bicolor (Swamp Wallaby)

Family: Potoroidae (2)

Potorous longipes (Long-footed Potoroo) EN

Potorous tridactylus (Long-nosed Potoroo) EN

Koala & wombat: Suborder Vombatiformes (2)

Family: Phascolarctidae (1)

Phascolarctos cinereus (Koala)

wild male koala "Clancy"

wild male koala “Clancy”

Family: Vombatidae (1)

Vombatus ursinus (Common Wombat)

Common (Bare-nosed) Wombat

Common (Bare-nosed) Wombat

Possums & Gliders: Suborder Phalangeriformes (13)

Family: Acrobatidae (1)

Acrobates pygmaeus (Feathertail Glider)

Family: Burramyidae (5)

Burramys parvus (Mountain Pygmy Possum) CR

Cercartetus concinnus (Southwestern Pygmy Possum) NT

Cercartetus lepidus (Tasmanian Pygmy Possum) NT

Cercartetus nanus (Eastern Pygmy Possum) NT

Gymnobelideus leadbeateri (Leadbeater’s Possum) CR

Family: Pseudocheiridae (2)

Petauroides volans (Greater Glider)

Pseudocheirus peregrinus (Common Ringtail Possum)

Common Ringtail Possum

Common Ringtail Possum

Family: Petauridae (3)

Petaurus australis (Yellow-bellied Glider)

Petaurus breviceps (Sugar Glider)

Petaurus norfolcensis (Squirrel Glider) EN

Family: Phalangeridae (2)

Trichosurus caninus (Mountain Brushtail Possum/Bobuck)

Common Brushtail Possum

Common Brushtail Possum

Trichosurus vulpecula (Common Brushtail Possum)

Bandicoots: Order Peramelemorphia (3) 

Family: Peramelidae (3)

Isoodon obesulus (Southern Brown Bandicoot)

Perameles gunnii gunnii (Eastern Barred Bandicoot) CR

Perameles nasuta (Long-nosed Bandicoot)

Dasyurids (carnivorous mammals): Order Dasyuromorphia (11) 

Family: Dasyuridae (11)

Antechinus agilis (Agile Antechinus)

Agile Antechinus

prob. Agile Antechinus

Antechinus flavipes (Yellow-footed Antechinus)

Antechinus minimus (Swamp Antechinus)

Antechinus swainsonii (Dusky Antechinus)

Dasyurus maculatus (Tiger/Spot-tailed Quoll) EN

Ningaui yvonneae (Southern Ningaui) NT

Phascogale tapoatafa (Brush-tailed Phascogale) VU

Planigale gilesi (Giles/Paucident Planigale) NT

Sminthopsis crassicaudata (Fat-tailed Dunnart) NT

Sminthopsis leucopus (White-footed Dunnart) NT

Sminthopsis murina (Slender-tailed/Common Dunnart) VU

PLACENTALS/EUTHERIANS: Infraclass Placentalia (63)

Order: Carnivora (8)

Suborder: Caniformia (8)

Family: Canidae (1)

Canis lupus dingo (Dingo) DD

MARINE MAMMALS: (33 in two orders)

Seals: (7)

Family Otariidae (4)

Arctocephalus forsteri (New Zealand Fur Seal) VU

Australian Fur Seal

Australian Fur Seal

Arctocephalus pusillus (Cape/Australian Fur Seal)

Arctocephalus tropicalis (Subantarctic Fur Seal)

Neophoca cinerea (Australian Sea Lion)

Family: Phocidae (3)

Hydrurga leptonyx (Leopard Seal)

Lobodon carcinophaga (Crabeater Seal)

Mirounga leonina (Southern Elephant Seal)

Whales & Dolphins (Cetaceans):  Order Cetacea (26)

Suborder: Mysticeti (8)

Family: Balaenidae (1)

Eubalaena australis (Southern Right Whale) CR

Family: Balaenopteridae (6)

Balaenoptera acutorostrata (Minke Whale)

Balaenoptera borealis (Sei Whale) DD

Balaenoptera edeni (Bryde’s Whale) DD

Balaenoptera musculus (Blue Whale)

Balaenoptera physalus (Fin Whale) DD

Megaptera novaeangliae (Humpback Whale) VU

Family: Cetotheriidae (1)

Caperea marginata (Pygmy Right Whale)

Suborder: Odontoceti (18)

Family: Delphinidae (8)

Delphinus delphis (Short-beaked Common Dolphin)

Globicephala melas (Long-finned Pilot Whale)

Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose Dolphins

Grampus griseus (Risso’s Dolphin)

Lagenodelphis hosei (Fraser’s Dolphin)

Orcinus orca (Orca)

Pseudorca crassidens (False Killer Whale)

Tursiops australis (Burrunan Dolphin) EN

Tursiops truncatus (Bottlenose Dolphin)

Family: Physeteridae (2)

Kogia breviceps (Pygmy Sperm Whale)

Physeter macrocephalus (Sperm Whale)

Family: Ziphiidae (8)

Hyperoodon planifrons (Bottlenose Whale)

Mesoplodon bowdoini (Andrews’ Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon densirostris (Blainville’s Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon ginkgodens (Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon grayi (Gray’s Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon layardii (Layard’s Beaked Whale)

Mesoplodon mirus (True’s Beaked Whale)

Ziphius cavirostris (Cuvier’s Beaked Whale)

Bats, Fruit Bats, Flying foxes: Order Chiroptera (20) 

Flying Foxes: Suborder Megachiroptera (2)

Family: Pteropodidae (2)

Pteropus poliocephalus (Grey-headed Flying-fox) VU

Grey Headed Flying Fox

Grey Headed Flying Fox

Pteropus scapulatus (Little Red Flying-fox)

Micro-bats:

Suborder Microchiroptera (17)

Family: Emballonuridae (1)

Saccolaimus flaviventris (Yellow-bellied Pouched Bat)

Family: Molossidae (2)

Mormopterus planiceps (Southern Free-tailed Bat)

Tadarida australis (White-striped Free-tailed Bat)

Family: Vespertilionidae (14) 

Chalinolobus gouldii (Gould’s Wattled Bat)

Goulds Wattled Bat

Goulds Wattled Bat

Chalinolobus morio (Chocolate Wattled Bat)

Falsistrellus tasmaniensis (Eastern False Pipistrelle)

Miniopterus schreibersii (Common Bentwing Bat) EN

Myotis macropus (Large-footed Bat)

Nyctophilus geoffroyi (Lesser Long-eared Bat)

Nyctophilus gouldi (Gould’s Long-eared Bat)

Nyctophilus timoriensis (Greater Long-eared Bat) VU

Scotorepens balstoni (Inland Broad-nosed Bat)

Scotorepens orion (Eastern Broad-nosed Bat)

Vespadelus baverstocki (Inland Forest Bat)

Vespadelus darlingtoni (Large Forest Bat)

Vespadelus regulus (Southern Forest Bat)

Vespadelus vulturnus (Little Forest Bat)

Suborder: Yinpterochiroptera (1)

Family: Rhinolophidae (1)

Rhinolophus megaphyllus (Smaller Horseshoe Bat) VU

Native rats and mice:  Order Rodentia (9)

Family: Muridae (9)

Hydromys chrysogaster (Water Rat)

Swamp Rat

Swamp Rat

Mastacomys fuscus (Broad-toothed Mouse) DD

Notomys mitchellii (Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse) NT

Pseudomys apodemoides (Silky Mouse) NT

Pseudomys fumeus (Smoky Mouse) CR

Pseudomys novaehollandiae (New Holland Mouse) VU

Pseudomys shortridgei (Heath Mouse) NT

Rattus fuscipes (Bush Rat)

Rattus lutreolus (Australian Swamp Rat)

This list has been compiled from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_of_Victoria and The Museum of Victoria: http://museumvictoria.com.au/bioinformatics/mammals and the Atlas of Living Australia:  http://www.ala.org.au

If any mammals are missing, please contact janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au

What’s In The Bush – Part 2: Birds

Downunder is on top, for birds anyway!

This world map is upside down, because this really is the right way up when it comes to birdlife.

This infographic shows the distribution of the large birds of the world (not including the geese & swans, which are worldwide).  As you can see, large birds have a predominantly southern distribution.

Predominantly southern distribution of large birds of the world

Where the big birds are

The world’s biggest birds – Ostriches – can only be seen in Africa.  Their similarly enormous relatives, Emus & Cassowaries, can only be seen in Australia/New Guinea.  In fact, all of the ratites (those mentioned, plus kiwis, rheas & tinamous) are only found in the Gondwana continents – Australia, New Zealand, South America & Africa.

EMUchicks040412p01mmtextlowres

The next largest in weight, the penguins, are only found in southern waters except for one – the Galapagos Penguin.  The huge ones – the Emperor & King Penguins – only live around Antarctica.  Smaller members of the family live as far north as southern Australia, South Africa and up the west coast of South America.

The heaviest flying birds, the bustards, have two representatives in Europe, and three in central Asia, but by far the largest diversity of the family is in Africa – Africa has 19 species of bustard. India has another three, South-east Asia and Australia both have one species each.

Pelicans are very large birds that range widely.  Seven of the eight species live in the Gondwana continents.  Two of those range into Europe (Great White, Dalmatian), and another one ranges into North America (Brown).  The only one that doesn’t live in the south – the American White Pelican – lives in North America and winters in Mexico.

pelicans060711p01textlowres

Australian Pelican – restricted to the Australasian region

For an excellent table of the world’s heaviest birds see this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Largest_organisms#Birds_.28Aves.29

In terms of wing span, the largest birds are the albatrosses.  The great albatrosses, the Wandering and Royal Albatrosses, can have wingspans up to 3.7 metres.  Albatrosses have a primarily southern distribution.  Of 22 species*, 18 are restricted to the southern oceans.

shyAlbatrosses190215p09lowrestext

Shy (White-browed) Albatrosses in New Zealand

Vultures, both Old World and New World (which are not closely related to each other) have very large wingspans to 3metres.  North America has three species, and Europe has four, but Africa has ten species, India and South America have six species each.  Again, the great diversity of these two families is in the Gondwana continents.

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one of the most colourful Australian parrots – the Rainbow Lorikeet

In addition, the ‘charismatic’, well-known bird families of the world also live mostly in the southern continents.  Birds of Paradise, Bowerbirds, Lyrebirds live only in Australia/New Guinea/South-east Asia; Toucans & Quetzals live only in South & Central America.  Parrots are at their greatest diversity in Australia, and almost all the species worldwide live in the southern continents.  Cockatoos only live in the Australia/New Guinea/SE Asia region.

Even some of the best known of European birds – pigeons, herons, storks & cranes – actually have many more species in the south than in the north.

lyrebird060415p17lowrestext

Superb Lyrebird – only in Australia

But why?

Because Gondwana – and Australia in particular – is where most of them began!  In his amazing book “Where Song Began” Tim Low outlines what ornithologists have known for years: the southern continents have stocked the world with birds.

Even the songbirds – the canaries, finches, sparrows, larks, warblers, mockingbirds, thrushes, blackbirds, robins, shrikes, orioles, cardinals, flycatchers, kinglets, wrens and chickadees – have all come from Aussie ancestors.

So next time you hear a wonderful dawn chorus, say thanks to our little continent at the bottom of the world (or the top, depending on how you look at it!!)

*debate continues on the number of species of albatrosses – some say as few as 13 exist, others believe 24.  This number based on IUCN and BirdLife International.

What’s in The Bush? An overview of Aussie & New Zealand wildlife. Part 1: Mammals

So what’s wrong with this view?  Or rather, what’s right with it?

WhatsInTheBush

Now you’re Downunder, everything is upside down.

Our mammals lay eggs, our reptiles care for their babies, birds are flightless but mammals fly, and Orion does a headstand in the starry sky.

You’ll meet our mammals, birds and reptiles.  You’ll see how many of them live in female-dominated and matriarchal societies.  Many of them breed communally too.  Its all part of living Downunder!

So to begin – The continents in red & orange on the map above are our sisters.  We are the “Gondwana continents” and we are special.

The ‘Gondwana sisters’ have nearly all the special mammal families of the world.  These animals are found nowhere else.

Aussie has some of the biggest and most charismatic of them – kangaroos, koala, wombat, Tassie Devil, gliding possums, platypus, echidna, bilby, numbat and others.  Seriously, these animals, in fact their whole families, are found nowhere else on earth.  You have to go upside down to see them in the wild….

WORLDmapEndemicMammalsTextcroptext

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This is a male Eastern Grey Kangaroo – the world’s largest marsupial.  They can grow to 7ft tall and weigh 90kg (200 pounds).  But don’t be fooled by his size and power.  It’s the girls who rule here.

These animals discovered the extended female-dominated family.  They were doing it long before humans came up with the idea.   To watch a mob of roos interact – the female majority all interested in each other’s welfare, getting along nicely most of the time with the occasional disagreement quickly solved by a slap.  In the background some males fight over breeding rights, but the females ignore them.

EASTERNgreys160712p01mmenhlowrestext

Here’s a kangaroo family.  Two males (left and back) but don’t worry about them, as I said they don’t count.  It’s the two females in the centre that matter.

The girl in the middle, carrying a big pouch-baby – she is a Kangaroo Queen. She is the daughter, and grandaughter of Queens too.

One way a mob starts is this: a female is born who is super-intelligent, strong, adventurous and has a talent for mothering.  Her name is “Sunshine”

Sunshine, for whatever reason, strikes out to find a land of her own.  A male finds her and 35 days later she has her first child.  A daughter.  Its always a daughter.  She made sure of that.  (Yes, kangaroos can determine the sex of their offspring)

Sunshine teaches her daughter everything she knows, and that’s a lot – remember she’s the daughter of a Queen.  Her daughter stays close to her mum, because that’s what most kangaroo females do, for their whole lives. Sunshine has other daughters (there’s one in her pouch now), and her daughters have daughters.  They all stay together, loving and close – most of the time.

When Sunshine has a big enough family to keep watch for danger, and provide her with company when she’s old, she finally has a son.  Why does she wait so long?  Because her son will leave, and kangaroo mothers hate losing their children.  He has to leave.  He leaves when he gets to breeding age because there’s no sex here – all the females in his mob are his aunties, sisters & close cousins!!   And kangaroos just don’t do that!

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Also in the You Yangs mountains near Melbourne live these guys. This is Clancy, and you can read about him on his Facebook page.

Koalas are more cute than words can describe.  But like a lot of really cute people, appearances are deceiving.

You are looking at one of the toughest creatures on the planet.

I’d like to see any human tough guy climb a slippery gum tree, all the way to the top – 30m/100 ft in the air.  Then balancing with his feet only, reach out to grab leaves on branchlets far too fine to carry his weight.  Then eat them – yuk.  Fair dinkum, those leaves taste awful!  They’re the equivalent of the Atkins Diet without the protein… or fat.. or vegies….  There’s no such thing as a fat koala!!

So after Mr Tough Guy has eaten his Atkins leaves he has to sit there and digest.  It takes hours.  He’d like a sip of water, but he can’t have it. Meanwhile the sun has risen, and from a pleasant night-time temperature of 8 degrees C, the temperature rises to a sweltering 42 Celsius.    In one day.      He can’t come down from his tree – it’s unsafe on the ground, and he hasn’t got the energy.  So he has to sit it out.

Koalas and Polar Bears have the world’s most insulating fur.  The conditions they suffer are similar – koalas on the hot side, polar bears on the cold side.

I don’t think many humans would last long in Clancy’s shoes.

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Somehow, with all these challenges koalas have survived for 37 million years.

Once again, the ladies dominate.  She lives 1.5 times longer than him.  She chooses her mate.  She keeps her daughters close their whole lives, but her sons leave for other female-dominated communities.

But they face their biggest threat now – climate change is adding insult to the injury of habitat loss.  They are already the toughest, but there’s only so much a mammal can take.

Platypus

“Platypus” by Stefan Kraft – Selbst fotografiert am 20.9.2004 im Sydney Aquarium.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Platypus.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Platypus.jpg

Speaking of ancient mammals – this is one of the oldest in the whole world!!  Platypuses, and echidnas, come from a line that is 120 million years old!  That is older than some rocks I know!

Mating is initiated by the female, who swims alongside the male seductively until he gets the message.

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These spiny darlings – Echidnas – lay eggs, but they are still mammals.

Mammals have hair – even whales have some hair.  Mammals also feed their young on milk produced from glands.  So Echidna are still mammals, even though they lay eggs.

Their egg is leathery and hatches 10 days after laying. Mother echidna curls up in a ball and lays the egg straight into her pouch – amazing!

The baby, named a puggle, stays in the pouch after hatching, drinking milk from glands on the mothers belly.   But when he gets spines, he gets kicked out!  And fair enough too!

compilation

In Aussie we also have a dazzling array of wallabies, rock-wallabies, bettongs, potoroos, wombats, and the cutest possums in the whole world!

But its not all about marsupials and monotremes down here – we also have fabulous placental mammals!  I’ll explain more about what that means in the second presentation: Sex in the Bush!

NZ and Aussie have lots of beautiful Seals, Sea Lions, Dolphins and Whales.  I recommend that you include a visit to the coast when you’re in our countries.

Next week I’ll post part 2 of this presentation: Birds!

What’s in The Bush was first delivered to around 400 guests on Olivia Cruising Australia & New Zealand 2015, on Holland America’s Oosterdam Cruise Ship.  The presentation was one hour, including questions.  I am available to give this presentation for groups – please contact janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au

Contact Info

T: +61 3 9646 8249
web: www.echidnawalkabout.com.au

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