Native Australian Animals in Melbourne

Melbourne's parks and gardens contain a wide variety of native animals...

A study in Royal Park in 1999 revealed the presence of significant fauna species including the large forest bat, gold-headed cristicola, purple-crowned lorikeet, Richard's Pipit and White's Skink. Fauna found in the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens includes ringtail possums and tawny frog-mouthed owls.

Many of the parks and gardens in the City are also home to rainbow lorikeets, red-rumped parrots, European finches, sparrows and starlings, ducks and a number of falcons and hawks such as the brown falcon, and the Australian hobby as well as bats and flying foxes. There have also been sightings of water rats in the Fitzroy Gardens.

Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)

The Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens provide a wonderful home for possums, particularly Brushtail possums. Counts have revealed an average of almost 13 Brushtail possums per hectare, more than thirteen times the number found in many natural bush habitats.

The Common Brushtail possum is about the size of a cat, with grey fur and a black, bushy tail.

Preferring to live alone, it spends the day in the hollow or deep fork of a tree, or inside the roof of a building.

The Brushtail has a single young after a gestation period (pregnancy) of only 18 days.

Usually born in Autumn, the undeveloped possum, the size of a peanut, climbs into the mother's pouch where it spends the next four or five months. It then stays close to the mother, often riding on her back, until it is eight or nine months old.

Young possums have to find their own territory and many do not survive, being killed by other animals or starving to death. This is nature's way of controlling possum numbers.

In the wild, Brushtail possums live for about six years. In the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens, where they are active after dark, Brushtails spend a greater amount of time on the ground than their brush cousins as the trees are more widely spaced in these urban gardens.

In their natural environment the Brushtail possum eats the leaves of Eucalyptus (gum) trees and Acacia (wattle) trees. They also feed on grasses and other ground plants and fungi, and occasionally on eggs and young birds. They have adapted to a wide range of plants from other countries and are one of few Australian animals that have adapted well to Melbourne's urban environment. The City of Melbourne's parks and gardens contain many of the plants they like to feed on.

Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus)

The Common Ringtail possum is about half the size of a cat, with rusty-brown sides, a white belly and white tipped, short-haired tail.

The Ringtail is difficult to see because it lives in trees and does not often come to the ground, usually feeding in the treetops or in thick bushes.

It makes its own nest, called a drey, about as big as a soccer ball, out of twigs and leaves, usually in dense vegetation.

The Ringtail has up to four young each year, often born in winter. Some mothers raise two litters over a breeding season that lasts from May to December. Ringtail possums live for three to six years in the wild.

In the gardens they are in very low numbers, but you may be lucky and see one at night. In their natural environment the Ringtail possum eats leaves, flower buds and fruits of Australian native trees and bushes.

They have adapted to a wide range of plants from other countries and, along with the Brushtailed possum, have adapted well to Melbourne's urban environment.

White's skink (Egernia whitii)

White's skink is a terrestrial, communally-living species, with small family groups sharing burrow systems. This medium-sized skink requires abundant vegetation/litter cover at ground level, with small open areas for basking and preferably a complex of rocks and logs at ground level for adequate shelter sites. While they are omnivorous to some extent, the bulk of their diet is usually small invertebrates.

Once widespread within the greater Melbourne area, White's skink has declined and disappeared from most of its former haunts, including Merri Creek.

This decline has occurred as a direct result of development and 'beautification' works. They do, however, persist in a few 'wasteland' areas (near West Gate), where their future is uncertain.

Recent studies undertaken have identified that the population within woodlands of Royal Park West and adjacent 'wasteland' areas appears to be large and currently viable. This population, one of the few remaining within the Greater Melbourne area, is probably the one occurring closest to the Central Business District and may be the only one potentially viable in the long-term. This population is therefore considered to be highly regionally significant.

Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)

The grey-headed flying fox weighs up to one kilogram and is identified by a grey or whitish-grey head, rusty brown fur encircling the neck and grey to dark brown body fur. These fruit bats congregate in permanent camps of a few hundred up to 200,000 individuals.

Camps typically occur in vegetation with a dense canopy usually close to water.

Grey-headed flying fox will forage as far as 50 kilometres from their camp.

Their diet consists of nectar, pollen and fruits from a variety of native tree species. Flying fox have been recorded consuming the fruit of Ficus species and chewing the foliage of Poplar species in Melbourne.

Other studies suggest that their diet consists mainly of eucalypt blossom and they are regarded as major pollinators of Eucalyptus. Reproduction occurs around March and usually one (rarely two) young is born between September and October.

The young become independent at 5 to 6 months, females reaching sexual maturity at 18 months, while males do not mate effectively until 30 months of age.

Tawny Frog-Mouthed Owl (Podargus strigoides)

The tawny frog-mouthed owl occurs where there are plenty of large trees in metropolitan Melbourne, and is probably the most common night-bird in the area.

The tawny frog-mouthed owl occurs where there are plenty of large trees in metropolitan Melbourne, and is probably the most common night-bird in the area.

As long as large trees remain in the park the species is likely to persist. The owl feeds mainly on insects and occasionally rodents.




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