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Habitat Ecology Information

What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #17 Black Wallaby

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#17 Black Wallaby
(Wallabia bicolor)

When I mentioned cryptic in the above blurb this is one of those creatures that I meant. The Black Wallaby you may rarely see but see some of the evidence of their nocturnal visits. The Black Wallaby is well camouflaged and its tendency to sit still when approached can make it difficult to see and often you only know that it was there when you hear it thump off into the bush, its head down and tail out behind. This wallaby can be found down the east coast of Australia from the Cape to South Australia in the thick undergrowth of forest and woodlands. It is becoming rare in the southeastern parts of its range in South Australia.

The Black Wallabies fur colour is also an indication of were it got its scientific name from. The reference to bicolor in the wallabies name comes from its dark grey fur which varies from black to brown on its back which changes to a distinctive light yellow to rufous orange on the chest. As the animals get older the fur turns grey especially around the muzzle.

Like many wallabies and other members of the Macropod family they can begin breeding around 15 months and can breed all year round. The young are carried in the pouch for around 8-9 months when they become independent at foot, retreating to the pouch when in danger and still suckling from up to 15 months.

Although a solitary animal it may be found congregating in small groups when it feeds. Their diet consists of a variety of plant species and although primarily a browser it will eat a variety of grasses and sedges many left by other animals due to their toxicity and rough foliage. They will often reach up to grab branches from the lower branches of trees and shrubs and I have seen them leap up to grab a tasty morsel.

The Black Wallaby has been implicated in vegetation changes in some areas due to its preferential browsing of palatable species, leaving non-palatable species alone to proliferate. This is especially the case in areas were the population is high.

© Habitat Ecology 2012