Facts About the Animals of Australia for Kids
Australia is famous for its unusual animals, such as the kangaroo, koala, platypus, emu, wombat, wallaby, echidna, and Tasmanian devil. Australia is an island continent. Because it is an isolated continent, it has species of animals that aren't found in other parts of the world.
Australia is famous for it's many species of marsupials. Marsupials are animals that have pouches to carry their young. Most of these species of marsupials are only found on the continent of Australia.
These are some brief facts about some of Australia's fascinating animals.
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo Theme Song
Kangaroos and Wallabies
The kangaroo is probably the most familiar of all Australian animals. It's even the symbol of Australia's main airline Qantas. Kangaroos are marsupials. They carry their babies, called joeys, in pouches. Kangaroos use their tails for balance. They can move at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. They usually grow between five and six feet tall, so they are about the size of a human adult. Kangaroos live approximately 8 years. A group of kangaroos is called a mob. They mainly eat grass and can survive for long periods of time without drinking water. They are such an important part of Australian culture, there was even a TV show centered around a kangaroo called Skippy. The show ran from 1966 to 1970.
Wallabies are members of the kangaroo family but they are much smaller. They are also marsupials and their babies are called joeys. Wallabies are herbivores that eat grass and other plants.
Tasmanian Devils are only found in Tasmania, an island that is part of Australia. They're famous for their bad tempers and often fight over food. However, food fights rarely cause injuries. Despite their reputations for aggression most are actually quiet and timid and they aren't dangerous to humans unless they feel very threatened. They're nocturnal marsupials. Nocturnal means they are active at night. They grow about 2 and a half feet tall and weigh about 18 pounds. They live about 8 years. Mothers can give birth to 20 or more babies, called joeys, but only about 4 survive. This is because the mother only has four teats to feed milk. They eat insects, birds, snakes and fish. They often eat carrion, which is dead animals. Many Tasmanian Devils are dying from a disease called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which makes them vulnerable to extinction.
The platypus is one of the two types of mammals that lay eggs. Mammals that lay eggs are called monotremes. They are classified as mammals because the babies drink milk produced by their mothers after they hatch from their eggs and they have fur. The platypus has a duck-like bill and webbed feet. It also has a beaver-like tail. Platypuses live in burrows and they swim in ponds and streams. Platypus means "flat footed." Adults are about 12 to 18 inches in length and weigh about 2 to 5 pounds. The males have venomous claws. The poison or venom can be deadly to animals like dingoes and dogs and very painful for humans.
The word emu comes from an Arabic word meaning "large bird." They can grow between about 5 and 6 feet tall. They weigh between about 70 and 120 pounds. The emu is the second largest bird. The largest is the ostrich. The emu is part of a family of flightless birds called ratites. Other ratites includes the ostrich and kiwi. They eat grain, flowers, berries and insects. They run very fast, up to 30 miles per hour. They can also swim. Females lay between 5 and 15 eggs up to 3 times per year. Male emus build the nest prior to egg laying and then keep the eggs warm for weeks until they hatch. Emus are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal food. They eat insects like beetles, crickets, ants and grasshoppers. They also eat lizards, fruits and seeds.
Koalas are nocturnal animals. They sleep most of the day (up to 18 hours) and are active at night. They are arboreal, which means they live in trees. These herbivorous animals mainly eat eucalyptus leaves and bark. Herbivores are animals that only eat plants. Koalas don't drink much water. Most of the water they need comes from the leaves they eat. Koalas are sometimes called koala bears. But they aren’t bears. They're marsupials. Mother koalas carry their joeys in the pouch for about 6 months. Koalas can weigh between 13 and 30 pounds. They live about 12 years.
Like the platypus, the echidna (ee-kid-na) is a monotreme or egg laying mammal. Eggs hatch after about 10 days and the baby, called a puggle, then drinks milk from the mother. Echidnas are covered in spines. They also have sharp claws. The echidna has a long, sticky tongue that it uses to eat ants and termites. They are sometimes called spiny anteaters. They can weigh between 5 and 22 pounds and grow 14 to 30 inches in length. These endangered animals are solitary creatures.
Wombats are burrowing, nocturnal animals. They're marsupials with thick fur. Wombats are herbivores or plant eaters. They eat grass, tree roots and moss. They take dust baths to stay clean. Their bodies are about 30 inches in length and they can weigh between 55 and 90 pounds. They live between 5 and 15 years. They look like very slow heavy animals but they can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. They are burrowing animals that build underground tunnels and chambers. Females give birth to one joey every two years. Newborns are the size of a jellybean. Wombats are in danger of extinction.