15 Outrageous facts about Aussie animals you can see in the wild near Melbourne
Australia’s unique wildlife draws visitors from around the world, with Victoria being one of the best places for eco-tourism to see these iconic specimens up close and personal.
Koalas, wombats, platypus kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras and echidnas can all be seen in the wild in Victoria, but it’s the little known facts about these bizarre creatures which will really melt your mind.
Here’s our list of 15 outrageous (and 100% true) facts about Aussies animals you can see in the wild in a day trip from Melbourne (and where to see them).
1. Kangaroos Can Pause Their Pregnancy
Skippy has the ability to tweak timings for when little skippy comes into the world.
Female kangaroos typically have a gestation period of around 33 days, but can pause the development of their embryos if they feel threatened by habitat, weather or other factors for an additional 11 months!
Amazingly, female kangaroos can also determine the sex of their offspring.
Our Peninsula Paddle, Pinot & Pools (Mornington Peninsula) provides you some fantastic viewing opportunities of Eastern Grey Kangaroos.
2. Scientists At First Thought The Platypus Was A Hoax
When the first platypus specimen was sent to England in the late 18th century, scientists who examined it thought someone was playing a trick.
“It naturally excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means,” zoologist George Shaw wrote in the first scientific description of the platypus, published in 1799.
Even crazier, one of the most remarkable aspects of the platypus – its ability to lay eggs – wasn’t discovered for another 100 years!
It is rare to spot platypus in the wild but when you do it’s a massive buzz. Our Wild Melbourne Sunrise Adventure (private tour only) take you to a little spot on the river where platypus are known to frequent and have been spotted.
3. Wombat Poo In The Shape Of Cubes
What do you do when you need to mark your territory but your poo keeps rolling down the hill? If you’re a wombat you start pooing cubes.
These amazing animals, dubbed ‘bush bulldozers’, even have a backwards pouch so no dirt flies into the pouch and on top of their baby when they are digging burrows.
We take our guests mountain biking along riverside tracks to a secret spot where we often see wombats on our Wild Melbourne Sunrise Adventure (private tour only)
4. Researchers Only Recently Discovered a New Species Of Dolphin In Melbourne
About 150 dolphins which live around Port Phillip Bay were always assumed to be bottlenose dolphins. But in 2011, DNA studies and an analysis of skulls in museums showed these dolphins are in fact a completely new species. The common name of Burrunan dolphins derives from the local Aboriginal word meaning a “large sea fish of the porpoise kind”.
Our Peninsula Paddle, Pinot & Pools (Mornington Peninsula) are made even more special when dolphins come to visit while we are Stand Up Paddleboarding.
5. Swamp Wallabies Can Get Pregnant While Being Pregnant
Like their larger cousins the kangaroo, wallabies have the ability to put their pregnancy on temporary hold. But what makes female swamp wallabies really special is they have two uteri, allowing them to conceive a new baby while being pregnant. Many wallabies are continuously pregnant their adult lives.
6. Lyrebirds Can Impersonate A Chainsaw
If only the lyrebird could enter a talent show. Even its name ‘The Superb Lyrebird’ is all showbiz.
The male lyrebird has the most elaborate, complex and beautiful song in the world. And it does impressions. The lyrebird can imitate the calls of more than twenty birds including the laughing kookaburra and gurgling magpie.
The talents of this bird extend into imitating human-made sounds, from car alarms to chainsaws, camera shutters and even a radio.
You can find The Superb Lyrebird in the Dandenong Ranges just 45 minutes from Melbourne or even closer in the North Eastern Suburbs.
The sounds of lyrebirds have been heard on our Wild Melbourne Sunrise Adventure (private tour only). In fact, the tour passes through the Melbourne suburb of Bulleen which name derives from the Aboriginal Wurundjeri word ‘Buln Buln’ meaning lyrebird.
7. The Weedy Sea Dragon Has Some Serious Dance Moves
The Weedy Sea Dragon is related to the seahorse, but is even more exquisite. It also has one of the most elegant courtship rituals in the animal kingdom.
The dance of the weedy sea dragon takes place every year in the shallow seas off the coast of Port Phillip Bay. During the dance, the male and female fish mirror each other’s movement.
Dancing leads to pregnancy, with the male tasked with carrying and protecting the eggs, and even giving birth two months later.
Weedy Sea Dragons can be found below several piers on The Mornington Peninsula including Portsea Pier and Flinders Pier. We’d recommend doing a snorkelling or scuba tour to see them up close. It’s well worth it!
8. Grey Headed Flying Foxes Caused a ‘War’ in Melbourne
Climate change and deforestation in the late 1980’s forced the Grey Headed Flying Fox to flee their native homes and travel south to Melbourne, where they took residence in the Botanical Gardens.
Believing the foxes were killing rare trees (there were in fact helping pollinate local flowers), hunters were called in to exterminate the colony.
However, members of the public felt compelled to defend the bats and formed a guerilla resistance marked by harassing shooters and forming human shields.
The plan to kill the bats was eventually dropped, with the council turning to the less brutal plan of using loud music (even banging pots and pans) to scare the 30,000 bats out of the Gardens. They eventually obliged and settled in Yarra Bend Park where they remain today.
Fortunately, our Wild Melbourne Sunrise Adventure (private tour only) include a stop in Yarra Park to see the Flying Foxes in their new home oblivious to the kerfuffle they caused 20 years ago.
9. Echidnas Are Just Plain Weird (but wonderful)
The Echidna is spiky like a hedgehog or porcupine but has a bird-like beak, a pouch and lays eggs like a reptile.
They also produce milk to feed their young but bizarrely they don’t have nipples; the milk simply oozes out of the skin in the pouch for the little one to lick up.
Also, baby echidnas are called ‘puggles’ – surely a candidate for the worlds best baby animal name.
Adding to the general weirdness, the closest relative to the echidna is not a hedgehog or porcupine but the platypus (as one of only two species of mammals which lay eggs!).
Echidna’s can be found in many parts of outer Melbourne and Regional Victoria but you have to be lucky to see one due to it’s secretive habits. We do our best and have spotted the little spiky fellas on our Peninsula Paddle, Pinot & Pools or Hot Springs, Hikes & Humpbacks
10. The Wedge-Tailed Eagle Is Actually A God
The Wedge-Tailed Eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia with a wingspan of up to 2.3m. It’s also the creator or all things according to Aboriginal mythology.
Bunjil, as recounted by the Kulin Nation, is the creator of natural wonders including the mountains, rivers, flora, fauna. Once Bunjil created the land, he turned himself into a Wedge-tailed eagle to watch over them.
All our tours have a chance of seeing these majestic mythical creatures flying overhead especially on the Mornington Peninsula.
11. Koalas Are Essentially Teenagers.
Koalas are fussy eaters. Their diet consists of only eucalyptus leaves (and only a few varieties at that), which doesn’t give them much energy. Plus eucalyptus is mildly toxic for Koalas, which means they have to expend more energy to digest their food.
Hence, Koalas don’t have much gas left in the tank. Knowing that you can’t really blame them for wedging themselves in a crux of two branches and sleeping it off for around 18 hours a day.
We sometimes spot koalas on our Peninsula Paddle Pinot & Pools Adventure of the Mornington Peninsula. Alternatively we’d recommend taking a tour with a koala conservation expert like our friends at Echidna Walkabout who take you into The You Yangs to see koalas in the wild. Or if your heading down The Great Ocean Road, a must do is to book a tour at Wildlife Wonders in The Otways.
12. Seals Can Surf Whales
Seals have been known to join surfers on the waves, but in 2015, one seal decided to up the ante and hitch a ride on the back of a humpback whale near Eden, just across the border from far east Victoria in New South Wales.
Talk about winning all time bragging rights with your mates. I’m sure they gave him a long (seal) clap.
Australia Fur Seals are seen near the coast of the Mornington Peninsula, we’d recommend you take a seal watching or swimming tour with an operator to guarantee a sighting and really see them up close.
13. Spider Crabs Are Cannibals
Every year in June hundreds of thousands of giant spider crabs march in the shallows of Port Phillip Bay to shed their shells.
During this vulnerable stage, some giant spider crabs resort to cannibalism due to the lack of local food sources.
There always has to be one that ruins the party.
14. Humans Relocated For The World’s Smallest Penguins
To save the penguin colony on Phillip Island in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a plan was conceived to relocate an entire town on the island so the land could be given back to the penguins.
This helped save the Penguin colony, which had a population of from less than 2,000 to 32,000 penguins today.
There are few great places to see penguins in Victoria. Most famous is Phillip Island, about two hours drive from Melbourne, where you can watch the renowned Penguin Parade.
Closer to home, St Kilda is home to a colony of around 1500 little penguins who decided to make the local pier their home. Sunset is the best time to view them returning with dinner after days at sea. We recommend checking out the St Kilda Penguins website before you go and donating to Earthcare who help protect these little legends.
15. The Southern Right Whale Has Downright Massive Balls
Southern right whales have the largest testicles of any animal, each weighing around 500kg. Just, Wow.
You can see Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales off the coast of Victoria between May and October as they make their annual pilgrimage along the Australian coastline. Our Hot Springs, Hikes & Humpbacks adventure takes you to the best on land location on the Peninsula to spot whales from the coastline.
We’d also recommend taking a whale watching tour, with some of the best locations for spotting at Warrnambool on The Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, Wilsons Prom Cruises in Gippsland, and the southern coast of the Mornington Peninsula.
Many of the legendary animals listed above are under threat or endangered due to loss of habitat, climate change, introduced predators, and other factors. So please do your bit to keep nature clean and protected, and support conservation programs and wildlife charities.
Below are some of the causes that WAM supports to protect our precious wildlife and marine life: