Wildfacts: Pesky Possums? No Way!

Possums are gorgeous creatures and quite harmless (though, like any wild animal they will defend themselves in need). They are marsupials – they carry their young (joey) in their pouch until it is too big. The joey then rides around on mum’s back until it is fully independent.  Ringtail males will carry the young on his back while mum is feeding.

In urban areas of Melbourne, the two most common types are the Common Brushtail and
the Common Ringtail. Hidden amongst the trees and rural areas you might find a range of gliders, pygmy possums and our faunal emblem the Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri).

In adapting to urban life, the brushtail possum often chooses to live in roof spaces leaving urine stains behind and the noise of scurrying as they leave at dusk and return at dawn. (If the noise continues throughout the night you might actually have a rat problem). To evict possums you will need to provide a suitable alternative. A nesting box in a nearby tree is a great site for the possum. Place some fruit in or around the box for the possum to get used to its new housing. Locate the entry/exit point to your roof at dusk then place a one-way flap over the area. Finally, trim any trees around your roof leaving around 1.5 m gap.

Common Brushtail Possum Common Ringtail Possum
Scientific Name Trichosurus vulpecula

(Greek: Furry tailed + Latin: Little Fox)

Pseudocheirus peregrinus

(Greek: False hand + Latin: Pilgrim)

Diet Primarily herbivores – feeding on leaves, preferring eucalyptus.

Adapted to the human environment feeding on flowers and buds of native and non-native plants and scavenging for fruits. Brushtails will even rummage through garbage for pizza, pies or anything they can get their hands on.

In this wild, insects, birds’ eggs and other small animals will supplement the brushtail’s diet.

Feeds on native plants including the flowers, leaves and fruits.
Appearance Thick black tail, long ears and dark markings around the eyes and nose.

Silver/grey body fur with white underneath.

Body up to 55 cm with tail up to additional 40 cm

 Coiled tail with a white tip.

Usually grey/brown fur with white underneath.

Body up to 38 cm and tail to 38 cm.

Natural Threats
  • Powerful owls and other birds of prey
  • Snakes
  • Powerful owls and other birds of prey
  • Snakes
Human Threats
  • Cars
  • Dogs
  • Foxes
  • Trapping and poisoning
  • Cars
  • Foxes and cats
  • Deforestation
  • Trapping and poisoning
Habitat Forest and woodlands, tree-lined creeks or, in urban areas, often in roof-spaces and chimneys Forests, woodlands, dense scrub and suburban gardens.

Ringtails build a nest (drey) out of twigs and branches in a tree hollow, tree fork or sometimes in roller doors.

Brushtail Possum joeys

Ringtail Possums

Wildfacts: Common Bronzewing

Adult Common Bronzewing

With a low, repeated ‘oom’ sound, the common bronzewing is often thought to sound like an owl. 

Phaps chalcoptera is a native member of the pigeon family. Similar to all bronezwings, the common bronzewing has a beautiful ‘sheen’ on its wings.

The birds primarily eat seeds and vegetables. They will feed on the ground in small groups. They need to drink regularly and will often be found near water sources.

Common Bronezwings build rough nests of twigs and sticks in trees low to the ground or in bushes. They lay two eggs per clutch and the male and female share the care of the young birds. As with other pigeons, Common Bronezwings secrete a milk-like substance from their crop for their young to consume.

 

Common Bronzewing
Scientific Name Phaps chalcoptera
Diet Seeds and vegetables on the ground.
Appearance 30-36cm; medium-sized pigeon. Male has a cream forehead and pink breast; female with a grey forehead. Both have a bright white line around the eyes and below. Wings have patches of red, green and blue.
Natural Threats Large aerial predators, such as:

  • Goshawks
  • Falcons
Human Threats
  • Cats
  • Foxes
  • Deforestation
Habitat Found in almost all habitats except the dry, barren areas and densest forests. Normally found near water.
Juvenile Bronzewing.
Photo credit: JABS

Wildfacts: Superb Lyrebird

 

Superb Lyrebird - Male
Superb Lyrebird – Male

The superb lyrebird menura novaehollandiae is a pheasant-sized songbird found mainly in forest areas from southern Victoria to south-eastern Queensland. It has a large lacy tail that, when on display, the male’s tail resembles that of the ancient Grecian lyre.

During mating season, in the middle of winter, the male will secure a territory and begin a song and dance routine on a mound in order to attract a mate. The songs he sings imitate the sounds of the forest such as other birds, or mechanical noises like chainsaws or camera shutters. The male will mate with several females. The female alone builds the dome-shaped nest on the ground, in the fork of a tree or on the edge of a rock. She will lay a single purple-brown egg and incubate for approximately 45 days.

 

Superb Lyrebird
Scientific Name Menura novaehollandiae
Diet Insects, spiders and worms amongst the leaf litter; occasionally seeds.
Appearance 80-100cm including tail
Natural Threats Large aerial predators.
Human Threats
  • Cats
  • Foxes
  • Deforestation
Habitat Moist forests. Mainly found on the ground, will escape to the trees or in burrows when threatened. Maintains a home range of up to 10km.
Male Superb Lyrebird grooming
Male Superb Lyrebird grooming

Female Superb Lyrebird scratching for food