Animals in Australia

Australian animals you should know about

There are so many interesting animals in Australia! Four out of five animals that live in Australia only can be found there. 

Among the animal species that can only be found in Australia are the monotremes, which are mammals that lay eggs! The platypus and two species of echidna are the world's only egg-laying mammals, so called monotremes. 

Australia has almost 400 mammal species and about 140 species of marsupials. Marsupials are animals that carry their young in their pouches.

Half of the birds that live in Australia, can only be found there. Among the typical Australian bird species are the kookaburras, the emu and the rainbow lorikeet, an especially colourful parrot which has a red beak and a multicolour plumage.

Rainbow Lorikeet

15 Animals in Australia you should know about

Koala

Koalas are marsupials, that means they are mammals that carry their young in a pouch. They look like cute bears but koalas are definitely not bears! 

Koala - typical Australian animalKoala mum with baby

Koalas live in eucalypt forests along the eastern coastline of Australia. They are fragile animals, grow up to 80 cm/2.2 ft tall and weigh only about 14 kg/31 lbs. Baby koalas are called joeys and hide in their mothers’ pouch for the first six months. Koalas eat lots of eucalyptus leaves (1 kg/2.2 lbs per day) and sleep up to 20 hours!

Animals in Australia: Dingo

Dingos are the biggest carnivorous mammals in Australia. Carnivorous means meat-eating. They can be found all over Australia except for Tasmania although mainly in the country’s outback. A dingo looks similar to a domestic dog, but has a longer muzzle, larger pointed ears and sharper teeth. It has a brown furry coat and bushy tail. 

Australian dingoDingo

Dingos are wild dogs that feed mainly on small animals. For the most part of its life, a dingo stays alone, but during mating season it is known to mingle with other wild dogs and hunt in packs of three to twelve animals. 

Kangaroo

There are about 50 million kangaroos living in Australia, that means there are many more kangaroos than people living in Australia! There are 55 different species of kangaroos. 

Kangaroo with joey

Wallabies are usually smaller than kangaroos but kangaroos come in all sizes. Some weigh only little and are tiny, others weigh up to 90 kg/198 lbs. In many rural areas, kangaroos roam in the bushland. One of the best places to experience kangaroos is Pebbly Beach, a four-hour-drive south of Sydney.

Platypus

The Platypus is one of the monotremes. The egg-lying animal lives along the river banks in burrows. The platypus has a brown furry body and webbed feet. With a bill like a duck as well as a tail like a beaver it looks truly unique. A platypus can grow up to 60 cm/2 ft in length. 

Platypus

The platypus is a very shy animal and quickly hides underwater if approached. If they are attacked and cannot flee, however, they inject poison through spurs in their hind legs. The poison is so strong it can kill a dog!

Echidna

Animals in Australia: The Echidna is also a monotreme which grows only up to 40 - 50 cm/1.4 ft long and weigh about 5 - 6 kg/11 - 13 lbs. 

Echidna: animals in AustraliaEchidna

Echidnas have spines on their bodies, which is thus covered with a prickly coat like a porcupine or hedgehog. Echidnas have a long sticky tongue and eat mainly insects. When frightened, echidnas roll into small balls to protect themselves.

Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian devil is an endangered animal and can only be encountered in the wild on the island of Tasmania. It is a marsupial and carries its young in its pouch.

Tasmanian devils are marsupials and carry up to four young. The young live in the pouch for up to four month. 

Animals in Australia: Tasmanian DevilTasmanian Devil

The black coated animal is a tall as a small dog, but very shy and is nocturnal. Nocturnal means the animal is active during the night. Tasmanian devils are the largest carnivorous marsupials and have powerful jaws and teeth.

Kookaburra

This bird is the world’s largest kingfisher bird and grows up to 46 cm from beak to tail! It is known for its chuckling voice which sounds like human laughter. Laughing kookaburras can be easily heard and thus spotted. Listen to the kookaburra's call here.

Kookaburra sits on an old gum tree...Kookaburra

Wombat

Another one of the native animals to Australia is the wombat. This burrowing animal can get really heavy and can weigh up to 36 kg/80 lbs. This is as much as a 10-year-old child weighs! 

Wombat held by a park attendant - image by Benny MartyWombat

Wombats can quite commonly be spotted in the Blue Mountains National Park near Sydney. Wombats feed on grasses, tips of shrubs and bushes. 

Animals in Australia: Emu

The emu is the tallest bird in Australia. It reaches up to 2 m/6.5 ft in hight and can run really fast, up to 50 kmh/31 mph. However, emus cannot fly, just like an ostrich. Emus have a varied diet: they feed on grasses and leaves, fruits and insects. 

Emu in Pinnacle Desert - Numbung National Park in Australia - image by Neale CouslandEmu in Pinnacle Desert/Numbung National Park

Emus defend themselves with strong powerful kicks. Their name comes from the Portuguese word ‘ema’ which means large bird.

Cassowary

The cassowary is the heaviest flightless bird in Australia. A cassowary has black feathers on the body, but the neck and face is colourful. Cassowaries have a very low frequency call which almost cannot be heard by humans. 

Northern Cassowary - image by San Diego ZooCassowary

The cassowary has a casque, a sponge-like helmet which is covered with keratin. Keratin is the material our fingernails are made of! The cassowary is the most dangerous bird in the world as it has the most powerful kick. The foot has three toes and a dagger-like claw. It can run and swim very fast, so it easily can escape any dangerous situations.

Sydney Funnel-Web Spider

Animals in Australia: The Sydney funnel-web spider is the world’s deadliest spider. The funnel-web spider injects a deadly poison when it bites and death occurs within an hour. However, an anti-venom has been developed and for more than 30 years there has been no fatality.

Australians are very aware of the danger of being bitten by a funnel-web spider, so they take precautions when hiking in the bushland or working in the garden. 

Sydney Funnel-web spider - image by Australian Reptile Park

The big black spiders are hairless and the spider web looks like a massive funnel - therefore it is hard to miss! The webs can be spotted between logs and rocks along the Sydney coastline. 

Australian Box Jellyfish

The Australian box jellyfish is the most venomous marine animal. The jellyfish with a box-like shape has long tentacles that inject poison when touched. The dangerous tentacles are up to 3 m/10 ft long. 

Australian box jellyfish - image by NOAA

These jellyfish can swim contrary to most other jellyfish that can only float. So make sure to stay out of the water if there are warning signs during jellyfish season in summer.

Animals in Australia:
Crocodiles

Since Crocodile Dundee we all know that there are crocodiles in Australia. Two crocodile species can be found on the continent. The freshwater crocodile which only can be found in Australia and the saltwater or estuarine crocodile. Both can actually live in freshwater and saltwater. The saltwater crocodiles are the world’s largest reptiles. Salties, as saltwater crocodiles are referred to by many Australians, grow up to 6 m/20 ft long and weigh a tonne. 

Saltwater crocodile in Kakadu National ParkSaltwater crocodile in Kakadu National Park

When waiting for prey, they can remain completely motionless for an hour. When hunting, they lie either half- submerged in water or hide underwater. They can hold their breath for about one hour and have transparent eyelids, so they can see their prey underwater.

Great White Shark

Along Australia’s coastline there are about 5 500 great white sharks. Great white sharks are not the largest shark species in the world but certainly impressive. They can become massive, up to 7 m/23 ft in length - this is almost half the length of a basketball court!

Once a shark is fully fed, it can live without food for three month without any further meal. 

Great White Shark

Sharks follow the vibrations in water when sourcing for prey. They have a very good sense of smell and can also detect the scent of blood from about 4.8 km/3 miles away. 

Australian Coastal Taipan

Some of the world’s most poisonous snakes such as the coastal taipan can be found in Australia. Other dangerous Australian snakes are the inland taipan and the tiger snake. 

Australian coastal taipan

The coastal taipan grows up to 4 m/13 ft in length. However, don’t worry too much about encountering snakes in the wild. Snakes like to be left alone, they only attack when feeling threatened.  

Did you know...?

Less people die every year from snake bites or shark attacks in Australia than from bee stings!

Resources: Animals in Australia

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