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Bennett's Wallaby on Friendly Beaches Reserve. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.
Bennett's Wallaby on Friendly Beaches Reserve. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.

Wallabies

Scientific name: Macropod family

What’s smaller than a kangaroo and bigger than a quokka? A wallaby!

The division of macropods into kangaroos and wallabies is arbitrary: the species we call kangaroos are simply the larger animals while wallabies are generally smaller (though some can measure 1.8 metres from head to tail).

The name wallaby is derived from the Eora Aboriginal people of coastal NSW. It now refers to about 30 species of macropod found in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Many species are named after the habitat they occupy, such as Rock Wallabies and Swamp Wallabies.

The Agile Wallaby, also known as the Sandy Wallaby. Photo Steve Parish.

All wallabies are marsupials: the young, called joeys, are raised in a pouch. Like kangaroos, their tails are long, powerful and used for balance (they’re not prehensile or gripping). As the name suggests, Nail-tail Wallabies have a sharp growth on the tip of their tails.

A wallaby’s powerful hind legs are used to jump long distances. Rock wallabies have feet specially modified to grip to the rugged terrain where they live.

A wallaby’s forelimbs are small and mainly used for feeding. They have a pointed snout, large ears and and a fur coat that can be coloured grey, rufous, brown, black or white.

Mareeba Rock Wallabies socialising on granite rock habitat, Yourka Reserve, Qld. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.

Wallabies feature in Aboriginal creation stories – the Wallaby Dreaming story of central Australia, for instance. They also provided fur and were an important source of protein.

Much like kangaroos, today wallabies are an important symbol of Australia on the world stage. Our national rugby union team plays as The Wallabies.

Where do wallabies live?

Wallabies are widespread across mainland Australia, Tasmania and Papua New Guinea. In Australia, different species prefer different habitats.

Rock wallabies live almost exclusively in rugged terrain, along rocky hills, boulders, sandstone outcrops and caves. Other species prefer arid grassy plains, dense coastal health, open forests or rainforests. The distribution of most species has shrunk since European settlement.

If you’re from southern Australia, you may be familiar with the relatively common Agile Wallaby or the Red-necked Wallaby. Some other species are increasingly hard to come across.

Under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Proserpine Rock-wallaby is Endangered; the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby is Near Threatened; and the mala (Rufous Hare Wallaby or Warrup), the Black-footed Rock-wallaby and Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby are Vulnerable to extinction.

And sadly, some species are now extinct. The Eastern Hare Wallaby, the Crescent Nail-tail Wallaby are two species that have become extinct since European settlement.

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Wallaby behaviour

Wallabies are herbivores and they mostly eat grass. They can also eat leaves and fruits, and other plants such as ferns and herbs. When grazing, wallabies will often congregate in small groups, though most species are typically solitary. Wallabies are more active in the evening and early morning, especially those in arid areas.

Wallabies belong to the famously bizarre group of mammals known as marsupials. When born, their tiny undeveloped young are the size of a jelly bean. They crawl to their mother’s pouch, where they suckle milk from a teat. After a couple of months, they’re able to leave the pouch, but will sometimes jump back in when scared!

A Black-striped Wallaby with joey at Carnarvon Reserve, Qld. Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.

When threatened, wallabies may thump their feet and make a hoarse noise to sound an alarm to others. They can also deliver a forceful kick with their back legs – a technique that’s also used by males when fighting each other.

Threats to wallabies

Wallabies have a few natural predators: Dingoes, Wedge-tailed Eagles and Tasmanian Devils. But the introduction of feral predators – foxes, cats and dogs – has been disastrous for many species, pushing some to the brink of extinction.

Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies have been sighted on our Boolcoomatta Reserve (SA). Photo Wayne Lawler/EcoPix.

Introduced herbivores – rabbits, sheep, goats and cattle – compete with wallabies for food, particularly problematic in arid areas where food can be scarce.

Agricultural development has led to land clearing and habitat loss, fragmentation or degradation – major threats for wallaby species. Some are considered an agricultural pest. Finally, changes in traditional burning regimes has changed grassland habitats in particular: this has reduced wallabies’ food source, and increased the number of devastating hot summer bushfires.

What’s Bush Heritage doing?

We have wallabies on the vast majority of our reserves. We’re happy to have seen the endangered Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby on Goonderoo in Queensland. The Threatened Black-Gloved Wallaby occurs on our Gondwana Link properties and Kojonup. We’re revegetating cleared farmland to create more wallaby habitat and our monitoring shows they’re using it.

The Near Threatened Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby has also been spotted on Boolcoomatta in South Australia.

We look after these wallabies by destocking properties, controlling feral herbivores, and controlling feral predators such as foxes. By reintroducing fire regimes more akin to traditional practices, we’re helping restore grasslands that provide food for wallabies.


Donate today to help us continue this and other vital conservation work.

 

Where are they found?

Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby: Goonderoo (Qld).

Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby: Boolcoomatta (South Australia).

Tammar Wallaby: BeringaCherininup and Chingarrup (WA).

Black-gloved Wallaby: BeringaCherininupChingarrup and Kojonup (WA).

Monjon: Wunambal Gaambera (WA).

Swamp (Black) Wallaby: Yourka (Qld), BrogoBurrin BurrinScottsdale and Tarcutta (NSW), JC Griffin and Nardoo Hills (Vic).

Stories about wallabies

Dome Rock on Boolcoomatta Reserve. Photo Craig Allen.

BUSHTRACKS 21/01/2021

A package from the bush

One of the questions we asked in the study was ‘are the wallabies, Euros and goats competing for the same food source? And we found a significant overlap in their diets.

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BLOG 24/01/2019

A month with Flashjacks in the Brigalow

In late 2018 Paul Bateman spent a month at Goonderoo Reserve working as a volunteer caretaker, both on the reserve and helping with the Flashjack (Bridled Nailtail Wallaby) recovery project.

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BUSHTRACKS 20/06/2018

Western Brush Wallabies return

Bush Heritage’s revegetation of 420 hectares on Monjebup North Reserve has seen the return of the poorly studied Western Brush Wallaby, known locally as the Black-gloved Wallaby or Kwoora.

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BUSHTRACKS 07/12/2017

Coming together for Flashjacks

Bush Heritage volunteers and staff recently had the chance to get up close and personal with Bridled Nailtail Wallabies in what turned out to be a record survey of the translocated population.

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BLOG 12/09/2017

Surveying Flashjacks on Avocet

Our volunteer caretakers at Goonderoo play an important role in the recovery of Bridled Nailtail Wallabies (Flashjacks) at neighbouring Avocet Nature Refuge in Central Qld. As part of their weekly caretaker duties, the volunteers conduct fence inspections and check water at the Flashjack nursery. They also support feral animal control, monitoring and weeding projects in the Brigalow habitat that the Flashjacks call home.

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BLOG 15/03/2017

Wallaby weigh station

The Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby (aka Flashjack) is one of Australia's rarest and most endangered macropods - there are only around 300 left in the wild. On Avocet Nature Refuge, neighbouring our Goonderoo Reserve, staff and volunteers have the privilege of supporting innovative work that's successfully boosting breeding numbers in the wild.

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Old-growth woodland at dusk.

PLACE

John Colahan Griffin

The John Colahan Griffin Nature Reserve is retains exceptional stands of very old trees, including Long-leaved Box and Yellow Gum. Some of these are truly gigantic and may be over 300 years old.

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Mature tree at Nardoo Hills.

PLACE

Nardoo Hills

Nardoo Hills Reserves covers 1007 hectares, incorporating the Judith Eardley Reserve and the Barnett Block. It contributes to the protection of some of the most threatened ecosystems in southern Australia and adjoins the Wychitella Nature Conservation Reserve.

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