Unique Cape York Animals

Some Cape York animals are found nowhere else in Australia.

Many Cape York animals are the same as the animals in the rest of north Queensland, and the rest of Australia.

But thanks to some land bridges that existed at times between the tip of Cape York and our neighbour Papua New Guinea, there are some species of birds, plants and animals that are only found in Cape York and New Guinea, and nowhere else in the world. 

Cape York is quite famous for that fact, and many people want to see those birds and animals on their trip.

The thing is, they are not easy to see, but if you want to put some effort in and go spotlighting and bird watching, it is possible.

Unique Cape York Mammals

Some of the most famous ones are the cuscus and striped possum.
The striped possum is found in Daintree rainforests as well as in the McIllwraith and Iron Range rainforests. There are two speices of cuscus - one lives in McIllwraith and Iron Range rainforests, and the other one in northern Cape York.

unique cape york animals

None of them are easy to come across, unless you go spotlighting night time (or have some really good luck at dusk or dawn).

Unique Cape York Reptiles

Another unique animal is the green tree python, which may first look like the much more common green tree snake, which is found in tropical rainforests further south. The green python is only found in Iron Range and McIllwraith Range rainforests.

It climbs on branches in the bush only about a metre above the ground. They seem to be territorial - the same individual is in the same place every night. 

green pythonGreen Tree Python

Unique Cape York Birds

Eclectus parrots are one of the rare birds that are only found up here. Males are green and females are red - I have read that it is because females sit in the nest and their colour acts as a warning sign for any intruders, while males fly around foraging (and feeding the female), so the green colour is a perfect camouflage.

They were the birds that were taken in the old days from the famous Smugglers Tree in Iron Range National park. Eclectus parrots are only found in the rainforests of eastern Cape York.

palm cockatoo eclectus parrot
Palm cockatoo and eclectus parrot.

Another species of birds that are found nowhere else in Australia, are the famous palm cockatoos. They are by far the largest cockatoos in Australia. They are also known to be smarter than other cockatoos, and have a more complicated social system.

They are not very easy to see on a brief trip to Cape York. Like other birds, they are easiest to spot when they are most active - at dusk and dawn.

Other Unique Cape York Birds and Animals

The above were the most famous ones, but there are many others such as (some birdwings), five species of insects (endemic beetles, termites and cicadas) and butterfliesfrogs, and 18 species of reptiles (skinks, geckoes, monitors and snakes).

Birds that weren't mentioned above are golden shouldered parrot, white streaked honeyeater, fawn breasted bowerbird, yellow billed kingfisher, and red cheeked parrot.

And mammals that weren't mentioned above include rufous spiny bandicoot, Cape York melomys, Lakeland Downs mouse, Cape York wallaby and bare backed fruit bat.


Cuscus is the most famous one of all Cape York animals.

We have other unique animals that are found nowhere else in Australia (but instead in our northern neighbour Papua New Guinea), but this is the most unique one.

The others belong to the groups of parrots, cockatoos, snakes etc, but there is not even another animal called cuscus in Australia.

Its closest relatives amongst Australian animals are possums, b
ut it is an animal larger than possums.

There are two species found in Cape York (PNG has more).

Both are solitary and live up in trees.

Both eat plant material such as leaves, flowers and fruit (meat eating differs, see below).

And both species are not endangered.

Southern Common Cuscus

This species is only found in the rainforests in the eastern Cape York peninsula, such as Iron Range.

It lives in tree hollows, and it is not known for sure how much meat it eats, or really even if it does eat any meat at all.

It is brownish grey and has a lighter belly.

It is the smaller of the two species, growing up to 40cm in length and weighing up to 2.2kg.

It is also the one less common to see.

   common cuscus

Common Spotted Cuscus

This species is found on the northern Cape York peninsula, about north of Coen.

It is grey, with a creamy belly, and the male has spots on the back.

It is larger than the southern species, with max length 58cm, and max weigh 4.9kg.

   spotted cuscus

Unlike the southern species, it does not use a shelter, and it is known that it does include meat in its diet - insects, bird eggs, even small birds.

It also has a wider habitat. Apart from tropical rainforest, it can also live in mangroves and open eucalypt woodland.

And it is also the species that is easiest to spot, partly because it is not 100% nocturnal.

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