Atherton Tablelands Wildlife
There are so many unique and beautiful species when it comes to the Atherton Tablelands Wildlife. From giant prehistoric birds to kangaroos that live in trees! You will discover genuinely magnificent animals and birds in this region. The list is endless so here are some of the more sought out species.
It’s easy to identify these spectacular flightless birds by their large size (6ft approx). Displaying a large helmet on their heads (called a casque). Made from keratin, the same as our fingernails. It’s believed the casque is used to pick up the radio frequency of the calls of other cassowaries. This call can be heard while in the rainforest. A resinating rumbling sound. They can also use their casque to cut through dense jungle to clear a path. With bright blue skin covering their heads and necks, and a dep red wattle hanging from their throats. The shiny black plumage is very coarse and unlike regular ‘fluffy’ bird feathers.
Cassowaries live a solitary life. They come together to mate. Females will lay their eggs, then leave the male to incubate and raise the chicks. When the chicks are old enough, the father will chase them away, and they will then begin their own solitary life.
A critical animal to the Atherton Tablelands Wildlife knows as a “Keystone Species” as they feed on the fruits of the rainforest. Many of the species of rainforest trees can only germinate and grow after passing through a cassowaries stomach first! This makes them extremely important for seed dispersal and the future of the rainforest. If approached, they can be aggressive, especially if they have their babies with them. They are very fast with a powerful kick. Their long sharp claws have been known to disembowel humans, however, only one death has ever been recorded. If you are lucky enough to see one in the wild, it’s best to stay still and let them walk past.
Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo
A kangaroo that lives in the trees?! It sounds unbelievable, but it is very real. One of the unique animals on the planet. Over time, land-based kangaroos evolved from possums. They eventually made their way from the tree-tops to the ground. Adapting with the long hind feet, strong tail for balance along with other things that better suit the land environment.
Somewhere along the way, the tree kangaroo decided it was happy to stay in the middle. They have muscular forearms with very sharp claws for climbing. Their hind legs are also muscular, with thick pads on the soles of their feet to help climb trees. They can move their hind legs independently, while the land-based roos can not do this. They have a long pendulum-like tail, which hangs down and helps them to balance in the trees.
While they live in the rainforest canopy, they will often come down to the ground for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is their environment has been cleared for farming. Now the rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands is fragmented. The tree kangaroos need to move between fragments for food and mating purposes. Unfortunately, this can cause problems for them. Domestic farm dogs, as well as Dingo’s, will attack and kill them given a chance. If they are crossing a road, they can be hit by a passing car. So make sure you slow down and keep a lookout for them!
Tree kangaroos are folivores. They love to munch on particular rainforest tree leaves, vines, flowers and fruits. They can be hard to spot in the wild, as they are excellent at blending into their surrounds. Visitors can often have some luck seeing them at the Nerada Tea Plantation, Wongabell State Forest and Mount Hypipamee National Park.
The platypus is a strange-looking animal. Almost like a duck, beaver and otter all in one! They have a duck-like bill and webbed feet. Males are venomous and have sharp toxic barbs on their heels for defensive purposes. These animals, along with echidnas, are extraordinary. Classified as monotremes, the only mammals which lay eggs.
The platypus feels most at home in the water. They are exceptional swimmers, and they move gracefully through the water even with poor eyesight. Feeding on the bottom of rivers and lakes, they love shellfish, worms and larvae. They can be tough to spot in the wild. There is a purposely-built platypus viewing platform in Yungaburra. Best viewing times are dawn and dusk when they are most active. If you visit the Australian Platypus Park in Tarzali Lakes, you’re sure to see these elusive creatures.
Better known by locals as the scrub python. Found in Tropical North Queensland and also in Papua New Guinea. As their name suggests, their scales will shine a beautiful amethystine colour when the light hits them. One of the giants of the rainforest, they can grow up to seven metres! Scrub pythons love to spend their time in the trees of the thick monsoon forests.
Australia’s longest snake. Their heads are relatively large compared to their bodies. This allows them to feed on larger animal species. A favourite item on their menu is wallabies. Ask around, and the locals will surely tell a tale of their neighbours cats and dogs being taken by these snakes. Mostly, they are known for being shy. Amethystine pythons will generally only strike when disturbed.
Possums and Gliders
This incredible region is home to more species of possums and gliders than anywhere else in Australia. At night time, grab your torch and head to the forest. You will surely spot some of these nocturnal animals. Usually, you will hear them before you see them. They can be quite noisy while they’re making their way through the trees foraging for their dinner.
The Atherton Tablelands Wildlife is a bird-lovers paradise. Australia has 726 species of birds. In the Atherton Tablelands, you can find nearly half! There have been over 300 species recorded. Thirteen of these species are only found in the Cairns Highlands.
- Victoria’s Riflebird
- Golden Bowerbird
- Tooth-billed Bowerbird
- Lesser Sooty Owl
- Grey Headed Robin
- Bower’s Shrike-thrush
- Pied Monarch
- Fern Wren
- Atherton Scrub Wren
- Macleay’s Honeyeater
- Bridled Honeyeater
- Mountain Thornbill
As you walk through the rainforest, you will hear many strange and wonderful bird calls. Great places to find a high concentration of birds include Lake Eacham, Lake Barrine, Mount Hypipamee, Curtain Fig Forest, Yungaburra and Lake Tinaroo.