Australian Icons on this Site

Kiwi:

A flightless bird native to New Zealand. Approximately the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites (which also consist of ostriches, emus and cassowaries), and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world.

DNA sequence comparisons have yielded the surprising conclusion that kiwi are much more closely related to the extinct Malagasy elephant birds than to the moa with which they shared New Zealand. There are five recognised species, four of which are currently listed as vulnerable and one of which is near-threatened. All species have been negatively affected by deforestation but currently the remaining large areas of their forest habitat are well protected in reserves and national parks. At present, the greatest threat to their survival is predation by invasive mammalian predators.

The uniqueness of the kiwi, with its large eggs, short and stout legs, and their ability to use their nostrils at the end of their long beak to detect prey before they ever see it, have helped the bird to become internationally well-known.

Potoroo

A potoroo is a kangaroo-like marsupial about the size of a rabbit. It is a macrapod. All three species are threatened. The main threats are predation by introduced species (especially foxes) and habitat loss. Potoroos were formerly very common in Australia, and early settlers reported them as being significant pests to their crops.

Gilbert’s potoroo is Australia’s most endangered animal. The species was discovered in 1840 by a naturalist called John Gilbert. It was then thought to have become extinct until being rediscovered in 1994 near Albany in Western Australia. The species has grown from an initial wild population of 30-40 to over 100.

Echidnas

Echidnas, together with the platypus, are the world’s only monotremes, or egg-laying mammals.

There are two species of echidnas:

  • the long-beaked echidna, which is confined to the highlands of New Guinea; and
  • the short-beaked echidna is common throughout most of temperate Australia and lowland New Guinea.

With a keen sense of smell, an echidna uses its long, hairless snout to search for food, detect danger and locate other echidnas. Termites are the preferred food, which is why the animal is often called the ‘spiny anteater’. After finding food, an echidna catches the prey with its long, sticky tongue. Because it has no teeth, it grinds its food between its tongue and the bottom of its mouth.

In warm areas, echidnas feed during the cooler morning and evening hours, and sleep during the heat of the day. In southern Australia, they often stop eating during the colder months and then eat large amounts during spring.

Although widely distributed within NSW, the short-beaked echidna is not readily seen in the wild because of its quiet, reclusive nature. The short-beaked echidna is not listed as endangered.

Australian Turtle 

Australia is home to about 23 species of freshwater turtle, which is found only in Australasia and South America.

These turtles are side necked turtles, retracting their head and neck beneath their shell by folding it to one side, rather than retracting backwards as most species of turtles do.

They are a protected species the subject of conservation programs.

Numbat

The Numbat is a marsupial anteater native to Western Australia. It’s diet consists exclusively of termites. It is listed as an endangered species and is protected by conservation programs. It is 20-30 cm long with banded body and a black stripe across its eyes.

Numbats are solitary animals and are strictly diurnal. That is,  it’s daily habits are strictly determined by the activity of its food – termites. When termites are underground,  so are numbats and as the seasons change and the habits of termites change, so does the numbats habits.

Numbat do not drink water, as it gets all the moisture it needs from termites. It is the emblem of Western Australia. They are attractive, appealing animals, who stand up like meerkats when looking for danger.

Bilby

The Bilby is a large bandicoot, measuring up to 55 cm in length. Bilby fur is very soft and is a blue grey colour. The belly is white and the tail is black. It is a marsupial which uses burrows for its habitat. It is an omnivore.

It’s large ears, help to keep it cool and have given it the nickname long eared rabbit.

One species of Bilby has been extinct since the 1950’s with the second species being critically endangered.

 

 

 

Bandicoots

Often confused with rodents, bandicoots are small, omnivorous marsupials. They are about the size of a rabbit, and have a pointy snout, humped back, thin tail and large hind feet. There are around 20 species of bandicoots, all of which are critically endangered.

Australian Rat

There are about 60 species of Australian rat, most of which are rarely seen. They stay in bushland or swamp areas and rarely venture into urban areas.

They are smaller than introduced rats.

They are omnivores and diurnal. Whilst partly nocturnal, it will follow its food source during the day when food is scarce.

Tiger Quoll

The Tiger Quoll, Spot-tailed Quoll or Spotted-tailed Quoll is the largest marsupial carnivore surviving on mainland Australia.

Tiger Quolls, have white spots that extend along their tail. The Tiger Quoll has a large home range and can cover considerable distances (more than 6km) overnight. It is largely nocturnal and solitary and lives for about 5 years.

It is endangered or critically endangered in all states in Australia.

 

Crocodile

The crocodile has always figured prominently in aboriginal culture in tropical Australia, appearing frequently in stories, songs, artwork and other parts of the culture of tribes in the region.

Crocodile farming is also successful, with farms maintaining small breeding populations, and raising the hatchlings for several years, in large shallow lagoons or ponds, until they reach marketable size, usually around a meter in length.

There are three main income sources from crocodile farms. The leather is used in the fashion industry, mostly for handbags and shoes. The meat is sold to restaurants and grocery stores and the farms are open to visitors, for an entrance fee.

Wombats

Wombats are short legged marsupials native to Australia. They are adaptable and habitat tolerant. Wombats dig extensive burrows and have a backward facing pouch, which protects their young whilst digging.

They are protected with some species listed as critically endangered.

Dingo

The Dingo is a type of feral dog native to Australia. The dingo is the largest predator in Australia, and plays an important role. While dingoes are often a threat to  livestock their depredation on rabbits, kangaroos and rats can be a net benefit to farmers and is considered a cultural icon by some Australians.

Dingoes have a prominent role in the culture of Aboriginal Australians as a feature of stories and ceremonies, and they are depicted on rock art and cave paintings.

Tasmanian Devil 

The Tasmanian Devil is a carnivorous marsupial, now only found in Tasmania. They used to be hunted as food and also as it was believed they would kill livestock.

A cancerous disease has been reducing the population.

They are critically endangered.

Redback Spider

The redback is a species of highly venomous spider originating in Australia. It typically lives near buildings, rock walls and human structures.

The redback is one of the few spiders that can be seriously harmful to humans. The last death from a redback was prior to 1956 when an antivenom was developed.

Gum Nuts

Gum trees (Eucalypts) being fast-growing sources of wood, producing oil that can be used for cleaning and as a natural insecticide. Eucalyptus oil is used in fuels, fragrances and insect repellants.

Koalas and large marsupials are resistant to the strong oils and it is the Koalas main food source.

On warm days, eucalyptus forests are sometimes shrouded in a smog like mist of vaporised air. The Blue Mountains outside Sydney take their name from the haze.

The seed pod is known as a Gum Nut and is a vase shaped nut which is as strong as wood. It is often used in crafts, by both adults and children.

Koala

The koala is a small bear-like, tree-dwelling, herbivorous marsupial which lives on the east coast of Australia. Its thick grey fur protects it from the heat and from rain.

Koalas live in societies, and are fussy eaters. They only eat a few varieties of gum leaves which makes them vulnerable when their habitat is destroyed. They are considered to be critically endangered.

Frill Neck Lizard

A frill neck lizard is Australia’s most famous and most popular lizard. It lives in the tropical north of eastern Australia and spends 90% of its time in trees. It eats mainly insects and spiders. Although it looks quite fierce with its neck frill extended, it is quite harmless. It is super fast and  hilarious when seen running.

Platypus

The platypus is an iconic semi-acquatic Australian animal living in rivers in eastern parts of Australia and Tasmania. It is a protected species but is not endangered.

It is among nature’s most unlikely animals and is the only one of its kind in the world.

It has a duck bill and webbed feet, beaver tail, and otter body and fur. It uses its tail to store fat for food and not to propel its self through the water.

They are also unusual as the female lays eggs but feeds her offspring milk.  Males are venomous. They have sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet and can use them to deliver a strong toxic blow.

It is a solitary creature, the size of a small cat and lives for about 10 years

May Gibbs

May Gibbs (1877-1969) was an Australian author and illustrator who focused on bush themes. Gumnut babies, flannel babies and boronia babies are a few of her much loved, well known characters. All take their inspirations from Australian trees and flowers. Her most well known characters are 2 gumnut babes called Cuddlepot and Snugglepie. Born in the UK, she emigrated to Australia when she was 4 and lived in South Australia, Western Australia and eventually married and settled in Sydney.

Blinky Bill and Nutsy 

Blinky Bill is a koala and children’s fictional character created by author and illustrator Dorothy Wall. The books were first published in 1933 and have never been out of print in Australia.

While telling the adventures of Blinky Bill, a naughty little boy in the form of a koala, the stories also present messages of conservation Blinky Bill is known for his mischievousness and his love for his mother.  In the original books, his friends include his step-sister Nutsy, his kangaroo friend Splodge, his platypus friend Flap, Marcia the marsupial mouse, and his mentor Mr Wombat. In general throughout the stories he does things that are realistic for koalas as well as things that child readers would like to do.

In the updated version released as a Movie in 2016, Blinky Bill and friends have changed their images. A number of new characters have also been introduced.

Kangaroo

Kangaroos are marsupials with large, powerful hind legs, large feet adapted for leaping, a long muscular tail for balance, and a small head. Like most marsupials, female kangaroos have a pouch in which joeys complete postnatal development.

Many of the smaller species are rare and endangered, while kangaroos are relatively plentiful and are shot for meat.

The kangaroo appears on the Australian Coat of Arms and on some of its currency as well as some of Australia’s well known organisations, including Qantas and the Royal Australian Airforce. The kangaroo is important to both Australian culture and the national image.

Ned Kelly

Edward “Ned” Kelly (December 1854 – 11 November 1880) was an Australian bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and convicted police murderer. Recognised as the last and most famous of the bushrangers, he is best-known for wearing a self-made suit of bulletproof armour during his final shootout with the police.

Even before his execution, Kelly had become a legendary figure in Australia.  Despite the passage of more than a century, he remains a cultural icon, inspiring countless works of art, and is the subject of more biographies than any other Australian.

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA)

SLSA is an Australian not for profit,  community organisation that promotes water safety and provides surf rescue services.

SLSA’s mission is to provide a safe beach and aquatic environment throughout Australia, through patrolling beaches, education, coastal risk assessments and training. Since 1907, surf lifesavers have rescued over 615,000 beachgoers. Their iconic uniforms are visible on many Australian beaches.

Flying Foxes: – Fruit Bats

Flying foxes are part of a large group of mammals called Bats. The only mammal capable of sustained flight.

They only have 1 young per year and the bond between mother and baby is strong. A mother who looses her baby, will continue calling the baby for up to one week.

Flying foxes are one of the most efficient pollinators and seed dispersers of native Australian trees. They only eat cultivated fruit from orchards if there is no native species available to them.

Bats are protected native Australian species and it is illegal to cause them harm.

Australian League Football:

The first games of Australian football were played with a round ball, because balls of that shape were more readily available.  It became customary in Australian football by the 1870s to have an oval shape.

The current Australian football ball was invented by T. W. Sherrin in 1880, after he was given a misshapen rugby ball to fix. Sherrin designed the ball with indented rather than pointy ends to give the ball a better bounce.