Despite its reputation as one of the most hipster-friendly cities in the world, Melbourne's pleasant climate is a draw for a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Melbourne is still home to many native Australian animals despite the industrial, commercial, and residential development that comes with being in a large city.
As seen in the case of the Rainbow Lorikeet, some species thrive at the expense of others. For some, it's a tough go.
That's why it's crucial for Melbourne to keep and expand its bushland and other green spaces; trees can also provide welcome summer shade and clean air.
Building the Melbourne Metropolitan Urban Forest Strategy is one way we're working with Resilient Melbourne to make the city greener.
FAQs About Melbourne
Squirrels in Australia
Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), which are the ones you’ll find in New York’s Central Park, were introduced to Melbourne in 1880 and then again to Ballarat in 1937. The species has since then gone extinct. Indian palm squirrels (Funambulus palmarum), on the other hand, were introduced to Perth in 1898 and have persisted ever since.
Along with the northern palm squirrel (Funambulus pennant) – some of which escaped from a Perth Zoo that same year – Indian palm squirrels have made quite a nuisance of themselves in Australia.
Despite the industrial, commercial and residential development that comes with being in a big city, Melbourne is still home to many Australian native animals. Some, like the Rainbow Lorikeets pictured above, do very well, even at the expense of others.
The snake wrangler told Daily Mail Australia pythons aren't native to the Melbourne area, and the ones he captures are escaped pets.
Yes, there are snakes in Melbourne. Seven types of snake can be found in and around the city, with the most common being the Tiger Snake and Lowland Copperhead, and the least common being the Eastern Brown Snake, which is Australia's second deadliest snake and generally found in more rural parts of the city.
Zoos Victoria is a world-leading zoo-based conservation organisation dedicated to fighting wildlife extinction.
Three zoos are Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo. Each one provides a unique and immersive experience that attracts visitors from around the world.
Zoos inspire animal lovers of all ages. And by strengthening the connection between people and wildlife, we hope to protect the future of animals and their homes.
Important work includes breeding and recovery programs; we've built partnerships with local communities, fellow conservationists, and like-minded organisations — close to home and in far-flung corners of the world.
Melbourne’s Urban Wildlife
What’s crimson once was green. That’s right, as young Crimson Rosellas emerge from the nest, they are blue and green. As they mature, their juvenile green feathers are slowly replaced by bright crimson red ones. Like nearly all parrots, they nest in hollows in the limbs or trunks of mature trees.
Eastern Yellow Robin
These delightful little birds occur in a wide variety of habitats in eastern Australia, from wet rainforests to dry woodlands. Their adaptability means they survive quite well in urban parks and gardens like those in Melbourne.
Common Ringtail Possum
One of two possum species found in Melbourne, ringtails, cause fewer problems for their human neighbours than their noisier relatives, the Common Brushtail Possum. As their name suggests, ringtails possess a prehensile or grasping tail that helps secure their movements through the tree canopy. They rest during the day in a dry or spherical nest they build from leaves and bark.
While many Melbournians might have become indifferent to the presence of these large and raucous birds, visitors marvel at the good fortune of being able to see such a beautiful bird in a highly urban environment. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are very long-lived. Some individuals have been known to live for more than 100 years.
Eastern Banjo Frog
Easy to hear if not found, male Pobblebonks (as they are also known) make a distinctive, explosive ‘bonk’ call while hidden in the floating vegetation of their swampy homes. They have a long breeding season from August to April. When not in the water, they spend their time inside their burrows near the water’s edge.
10 native animals you can see in and around Melbourne
The presence of wildlife is not typically thought of in connection with Melbourne. To many people, the possums that rummage through their trash cans are the only native animal they ever see.
Suburban life doesn't preclude access to the great outdoors, though. If you know where to look, you can find a wide variety of native animals in the Melbourne area.
Read on for a list of 10 native Australian animals that can be viewed in and around Melbourne without the need to enter a zoo. Take pictures if you get lucky and see one, but don't try to touch, catch, or feed it.
They might be the largest bat species in Australia, but the grey-headed flying fox is no blood-sucking vampire. This fruit-loving bat is one of our city’s most iconic animals.
You might have seen their silhouettes adorn the sky at night, but did you know that you can see them up close? The biggest roosting colony is in Yarra Bend Park, between Yarra Boulevard and the Eastern Freeway overpass, where they can be found sleeping upside-down in the trees.
Of course, you’ll need to visit during the day, before the bats take flight for the evening. They’re impossible to miss and can be seen from any of the viewing platforms along Yarra Boulevard.
At only 33 cm tall, the little penguin, formerly known as the fairy penguin, is the smallest penguin species in the world. They are the only species to breed on mainland Australia, and here in Melbourne, we are lucky to have a colony at St Kilda Breakwater.
Take a walk along the pier at dusk, and you can often see these sleek little guys going to and from the water in search of fish. Volunteer guides from Earthcare St Kilda are available and more than willing to provide information about the penguins and their habitat. The best time to see them is from late winter to early summer.
There’s a reason this iconic bird features on our 10c coin – the superb lyrebird is a songbird like no other. With the extraordinary ability to mimic both natural and artificial sounds, they can often be heard showing off their talents. During the winter mating season, the males perform a song and dance, waving their impressive tail plumage.
Superb lyrebirds can be found around Melbourne, but you may need to put on your walking shoes. The best places to look are Masons Falls picnic ground in Kinglake National Park and the Lyrebird Loop walking track in Ferntree Gully.
Growling grass frog
This bright green critter is one of Australia’s largest frog species. Named after its unique call that consists of several short grunts and a long deep growl, if they can’t be seen, they will almost certainly be heard.
Growling grass frogs are found in several locations around Melbourne, including the big wetland area at Caroline Springs. They can be found floating in the water or out on the banks if it’s a sunny day. They are most active at night, but if you choose to go in the evening, be sure to take a torch.
The Rakali, the largest rodent in Victoria, is unlike the common rat. The rakali is a semiaquatic mammal that is native to Australia and looks more like an otter than anything else. These guys are built for the water, thanks to their webbed feet and thick, muscular tail.
The white tip on this species' tail is another telltale sign of its uniqueness, in addition to its size. The St. Kilda Breakwater is the ideal location from which to observe rakali. Even though some sightings have been made during the day, visiting at dusk is the best bet. Spend some money on fish and chips, take in the scenery, and have fun watching the antics of the locals in the bay.
Who doesn’t love the humble wombat? Possibly Australia’s most under-rated native animal, the wombat usually doesn’t get a look in. They are often thought of as clumsy and slow, but wombats are strong animals well adapted for digging.
You can go looking for wombats in Lower Eltham and Upper Templestowe. Take the Main Yarra Trail from Fitzsimons Lane for 1-2km, but go after dark. If you’re quiet, you will know where to shine your torch as they grizzle and grunt their way about the forest in search of food.
This new species of bottle-nose dolphin is the only cetacean endemic to Australia, and they occur right here in Port Phillip Bay. They can usually be seen by carefully scanning the water from the headlands between Frankston and Pt Nepean. Visiting during calmer weather is better, as you won’t have waves inhibiting your view.
But if seeing them at a distance isn’t enough, there are several dolphin tours on offer. All can get you up close and personal with these beautiful sea creatures. Sadly the burranan dolphin is critically endangered, with their total numbers estimated to be less than 100.
Southern brown bandicoot
This cute little fellow is characterised by his long brown snout and black button eyes. Once plentiful in metropolitan areas, they are no longer as common due to habitat loss and predation by feral animals. However, there are still some places you can find them in and around the big smoke.
The picnic ground in the bush area of Cranbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens is not just a great place for lunch but also the perfect place to spot a southern brown bandicoot. They are often out in the middle of the day, making them a great animal to visit with young kids.
As Australia's largest owl, the powerful owl is truly majestic. Despite its large size, finding one is not always easy. Their dark brown-grey colour means they have good camouflage for the woodland forests where they live. But pay a visit to the 1000 Steps walk in Ferntree Gully, and you might be lucky enough to see a set of big yellow eyes staring back at you.
This species also roosts in the rainforest section of the Royal Botanic Gardens. You can ask one of the groundskeepers if there have been any recent sightings as they’re usually aware of what’s around. Of course, being nocturnal, your best chance of spotting one is after dark, but you'll need a good flashlight.
The platypus is a symbol of Australia, but it is also one of the country's more enigmatic animals. These peculiar creatures prefer to avoid human contact, as they are primarily nocturnal. However, the platypus can still be seen swimming around in some parts of the Melbourne area. Wombat Bend on the Yarra River in Templestowe, just downstream from the children's park, is one such location. At dusk, if you're lucky, you can catch a glimpse of one or two from the footbridge. One local couple frequently can be seen feeding and swimming in the rapids as the sun sets.
Awesome Animals You Can See in Melbourne's Yarra Valley
Australia is home to many unique animals, many of which you can see in the Yarra Valley at Healesville Sanctuary. Set within the natural bushland, Healesville Sanctuary is a not-for-profit organisation specialising in conserving native Australian animals. At the sanctuary, you can wade with the platypus, hear a dingo howl, pat and play with a wombat and even feed an echidna.
Critically threatened, the Tasmanian Devil is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. To see one in the wild, you previously had to travel to Tasmania; however, thanks to Healesville Sanctuary’s successful breeding program, you can also see these boisterous creatures in the Yarra Valley. To learn more about them, Healesville Sanctuary holds a Tasmanian Devil talk at 11.30 is daily, which is included with general admission.
Spirits in the sky
Spectacular and unmissable, ‘Spirits in the Sky’ at Healesville’s flight arena showcases the impressive abilities of birds of prey and brightly coloured parrots. Free with general admission, this daily show takes place at 12 pm and 2.30 pm and is sure to delight the young and old.
Appearing on the coat of arms, the kangaroo is Australia’s most iconic animal. At Healesville Sanctuary, you not only observe these bounding marsupials, but you can also book a close-up experience and help feed Kangaroo Island kangaroos. There is also a separate Kangaroo Talk where you’ll meet a few of the resident kangaroos. The Kangaroo Talk is held daily at 11.30 am and is included with general admission.
A threatened species in Victoria, Dingos, is a feral dog that has lived on the Australian mainland for 5,000 years. At Healesville Sanctuary, you can meet these handsome predators with a close-up experience or attend a ‘Dingo Lingo’ keeper talk where you’ll learn about these creatures and hear them howl. The Dingo Talk is given at 3.30 pm daily and is included with general admission.
Appearing on the Australian five-cent coin, Echidnas are spiky, egg-laying mammals known as monotremes. Healesville Sanctuary offers the opportunity to meet these timid creatures in a close-up experience where you’ll learn to feed them, and the rangers will even show you how to pat them.
One of the cutest and most iconic Australian animals, Koalas inhabit eucalyptus trees throughout eastern and southern Australia. At Healesville Sanctuary, you can meet sleepy koalas in a close-up encounter within their exhibit and even pose for a photo together.
The second koala experience is the Koala Forest Talk, where keepers will take you on a journey through the home of these adorable tree-huggers. The forest talk is held at 1.30 pm daily and is included in general admission.
In 2014 Healesville’s Lyrebirds were given a new home thanks to the ongoing support of RACV. It’s here, in the Lyrebird Aviary, that you can see these elegant, mimicking birds. The Lyrebird Talk is held at 1.15 pm daily and is included with general admission.
Whether you’re hoping to overcome a fear or want to encounter a snake safely, Healesville Sanctuary’s ‘Python Snake Close-Up’ is a memorable experience. A ranger will lead you through the 10-minute encounter where not only will you learn some fascinating facts, but you’ll get to meet a python.
Animals from around the world
Take a stroll down the bush track at Melbourne Zoo to see kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and emus, and stop by the beach to watch the Little Penguins and Australian fur seals play in the surf. The zoo is home to more than 300 species, including elephants, lions, and orang-utans, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to see everything.
Delve deeper into the underwater world at the Melbourne Aquarium or go on a wildlife adventure at Werribee Open Range Zoo to see rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos on grassy plains.
Many different species of animals make their homes in the city's parks and gardens. Winter evenings in the Fitzroy and Treasury gardens are a great time to see native wildlife like possums and birds like rosellas and lorikeets. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens and spend the day among the native black swans, cockatoos, and kookaburras who call it home.
Humans and wildlife
There are many opportunities to see and experience wildlife in the City of Melbourne's parks and gardens, nature strips, streetscapes as well as your backyard. Please find out the best times for spotting wildlife and tips for protecting our wildlife.
All Australian native animals are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975. It is an offence to take, harm or disturb wildlife. Hunting, trapping or injuring animals, including possums and ducks, in public parks and gardens is illegal, and fines apply.
It’s important to remember not to feed the wildlife. Feeding wildlife can:
- alter the natural behaviour of wildlife
- contribute to their overpopulation
- make some animals aggressive
- cause poor nutrition and spread disease
- encourage the presence of vermin in the wildlife habitat
- often lead to unwelcome wildlife causing property damage in residential areas
- affect water quality and the natural environment.
Tips to protect our wildlife
Feeding wildlife, especially possums, can do them serious harm.
Disturbing, injuring or trapping wildlife, including possums and ducks, is an offence.
Remember that wildlife is wild, so watch animals from a safe distance.
When to see wildlife in Melbourne’s parks and gardens
There are a wide variety of native and introduced birds, including black and white magpie-larks, that can be seen and heard by park visitors during the day (peewees). They typically occur in pairs, with the male being distinguished by the presence of a white eyebrow marking on his head and black plumage surrounding his beak, while the female is distinguished by the presence of white feathers surrounding her beak.
Rainbow lorikeets, a bright and noisy bird, gather in large groups to look for a safe place to spend the night. At dusk, or in a colony at Kew's Yarra Bend Park, grey-headed flying foxes can be spotted. The tawny frogmouth and other nocturnal birds like owls have been spotted. In wet areas close to ponds, you may hear a variety of frog calls.