Cape York Wildlife

Cape York wildlife is fantastic.

It is even more amazing than the wildlife of the rest of Australia.

Most of it is much the same as the wildlife in many other places in Australia, particularly in north Queensland.

But then there are also the
unique Cape York animals - the species that are only found here and in our northern neighbour Papua New Guinea.

And that said, it is not easy to see most of the animals.

The absence of them can be quite obvious, particularly during the drier parts of the year, which is the high season for Cape York travellers.

You basically have to put a bit of effort into finding them, or at least know where to go to find them.

Each species has their own hot spots, they are all in the Destination Guide.

Cape York Mammals

Australia's most unique mammals are monotremes platypus and echidna. Echidna is found in the whole Australia, including Cape York, and while it is not easily seen everywhere, you do sometimes come across it. 

Platypus is a water animal, it lives in freshwater streams and waterholes, and it is a shy animal.  

australian platypus australian echidna
Australian platypus and echidna.

Kangaroos and Wallabies

Most other Australian mammals are marsupials. Some of the most famous marsupials such as koalas and wombats are not found in Cape York. Neither do we have many kangaroos. Only one kangaroo - the Eastern Grey, lives in the south-eastern parts of the peninsula. All other kangaroo-like animals that you may come across are either wallabies or wallaroos. There is also one species of tree kangaroo on Cape York, but it is not very easy to spot.

australian wallaby tree kangaroo
Rufous Wallaby and Tree Kangaroo.

Possums and Gliders

There are a few different species of possums in Cape York, such as brushtails, ringtails, striped possums and others. Some are found on the whole peninsula, others in smaller areas. There are also a few species of gliders and two species of cuscus.
australian possum sugar gliders
Brushtail Possum and Sugar Gliders.

Carnivorous Marsupials

Quolls, dunnarts and bandicoots are carnivorous marsupials. Bandicoots are quite easy to see, they come to camping grounds and eat food scarps, while dunnarts and quolls are shyer.

spotted tailed quoll
Spotted Tailed Quoll.

Bats and Flying Foxes

Bats and flying foxes are placental (not marsupial) mammals. Apart from the more common little red flying fox that is found in many other parts of Australia, there are two more species of flying foxes in Cape York - the larger - black; and the bit smaller - spectacled flying fox. There are also about five species of bats.

tube nosed bat spectacled flying fox
Tube Nosed Bat and Spectacled Flying Fox.

Dingoes and Other Introduced Cape York Wildlife

Other placental animals are dingoes and introduced animals. Dingoes are not very easy to come across, but feral pigs and feral horses are everywhere. You most likely see them on your trip.

australian dingo
Dingo at Jardine River ferry crossing.

Cape York Wildlife - Birds

Some of the most amazing birds are the flightless emus and cassowaries. Emus are common and easy to see even in the rest of Australia, while cassowaries are endangered, rare to see and only found in tropical north Queensland including Cape York.

emu bird cassowary
Emu and Southern Cassowary.

There are also many other, smaller flightless birds. Some of the most common ones in Cape York are bush turkeys. They are found in the whole coastal Queensland where they 'normally' have a yellow collar around their neck, but the subspecies found on the Cape York peninsula has whiteish or purple.  

bush turkey bush turkeys
Bush Turkey - Cape York / Atherton Tablelands.

Parrots and Cockatoos

Parrots, rosellas and lorikeets are some of the most colourful, noisy and fun birds to watch. A fair few species are found in Cape York, including eastern rosellas and rainbow lorikeets, as well as red winged, golden shouldered, red cheeked and eclectus parrots.

eastern rosella rainbow lorikeet
Eastern Rosella and Rainbow Lorikeet.

Another group of fun and noisy, but less colourful birds are cockatoos. There are a few species in Cape York, including sulphur crested, red tailed black and palm cockatoos as well as galahs and little corellas. 

galah black cockatoo
Galah and Red Tailed Black Cockatoo.

Kookaburra and Other Kingfishers

Another famous Australian bird is kookaburra, and while the better known laughing kookaburra is found in the southern and eastern parts of Australia, up north we also have the blue winged kookaburra. Both are found in Cape York, along with seven other species of kingfishers. 

blue winged kookaburra collared kingfisher
Blue Winged Kookaburra and Collared Kingfisher.

Jabirus and Brolgas

Cape York is also home for jabirus and brolgas - beautiful large birds with a wingspan of more than a metre. Brolgas are grassland birds and jabirus live near water

brolga jabiru bird
A brolga and a jabiru.

Tropical Pigeons and Doves

There are many colourful pigeons and doves in Australia. Some better known ones that are found in Cape York are Wompoo fruit doves and imperial pigeons.

wompoo fruit dove imperial pigeon
Wompoo Fruit Dove and Imperial Pigeon.

Birds of Prey

Australian largest raptor, the wedge tailed eagle is found in Cape York, but is not quite as common here as further south in the outback Queensland.
The second largest - the white bellied sea eagle is quite common and quite easy to see. There are a few other species of eagle, as well as hawks, kites, ospreys and falcons. There are also a few different species of owls, frogmouths (Tawny, Papuan and marbled) and nightjars. 

lesser sooty owl white bellied sea eagle
Lesser Sooty Owl and and White Bellied Sea Eagle.

Of course, there are many, many other birds in Cape York, too many to describe here in detail. One of my special favourites is the tiny and beautiful sunbird - also only found in north Queensland.

Sunbird - only found in coastal north Queensland.

Cape York Reptiles and Amphibians

The most famous reptiles are of course crocodiles. There are two species of crocodiles in Australia, and both are found in Cape York.

Two Types of Crocodiles

The large, man eating saltwater crocodile is the world's largest crocodile. It is very dangerous, and it will kill a human for food if you give it a chance. The smaller, freshwater crocodile can give you a bite, but it doesn't kill humans for food. The two are easy to distinguish by their size, and the broadness of their snout.

australian saltwater crocodile
 fresh water crocodile
Saltwater and Freshwater Crocodile.

Two Types of Turtles

Another group of dinosaur-time reptiles (along with the crocodiles) are turtles, and just like in crocodiles, there are saltwater and freshwater turtles.

fresh water turtles marine turtles
Freshwater and saltwater turtle.

Lizards, Skinks and Geckos

We have many species of lizards in Cape York, but one of the most special ones is frilled lizard, which belongs to the group of dragons.

frilled necked lizard frilled lizard
Frilled Lizard, Iron Range.

Skinks is one of the largest groups of reptiles in Australia. There are many different skinks in Cape York, the largest ones are blue tongue skinks

australian skinks
A skink in Weipa.

As we are in the tropics we also have the little and cute gecko lizards, including house geckoes (both the native and the Asian house gecko).

gecko lizards
Gecko Lizard in Cape Tribulation.

Monitors and Goannas

Other, larger reptiles that you may come across are monitor lizards (including sand goanna). They are impressively large meat-eating reptiles. We don't have the Australia's largest one - perentie - but we do have the second largest - lace monitor.

lace monitor
Lace Monitor in Cairns.

Snakes are also Cape York Wildlife

We also have many snakes - some of the most feared reptiles. Like in the rest of Australia, we have both non venomous and poisonous snakes in Cape York, however on your trip you probably only come across the harmelss and very common black headed python.

black headed python
Black Headed Python near Ussher Point.  

Frogs are also Cape York Wildlife

Most of frogs that you will see in Cape York are green tree frogs. There are many species of native brown-coloured frogs too, but the introduced pests cane toads are fat and easy to recognise.

green tree frog cane toad
Green Tree Frog and Cane Toad.

 Cape York Insects and Spiders

Some of the most beautiful insects you will see in Cape York are the electric blue Ulysses Butterflies.

ulysses butterfly
Ulysses Butterfly in Cairns.

You may also see Cairns Birdwings - the largest of all Australian butterflies (the female is, not the male in the pic below).

cairns birdwing
Cairns Birdwing butterfly in Kuranda.

Other impressively large Australian insects are rhino beetles, stick insects and praying mantids, which are also found in Cape York. 

stick insect
Stick Insect in Cairns.

There are many different species of ants, but probably the most common ones are green ants, whose nests you can see everywhere. They are harmless unless you go disturbing a group, when the attack can be quite vicious.

green ant nest
Green ants building a nest, Elliott Falls.

Another thing you will notice is termite mounds. They can be huge, and there is lots of them. Termites live everywhere in Australia, but only in the northern tropics do they build mounds - and Cape York is full of them.

termite mounds
Termite mounds on Cape York, Bramwell.

Of course we also do have the spiders, and as in the rest of Australia, some can be poisonous.

australian spiders
Australian bird eating spider.

Cape York Wildlife - Water Creatures

And finally, there are the water animals. The most amazing marine animals are the marine mammals like dugongs, whales and dolphins, and there are many places where you could see them from the coast.

australian whales
Australian whales.

Cape York is also in the northern end of the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, and there are so many beautiful coral reef animals. Do take a trip to watch them while up here - the reef is much closer to the mainland than down south, making the tours better value.

coral reef animals
Coral reef animals.

And there are also the shore animals, like soldier crabs and many others.

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Plan Your Trip... the FREE Cape York Travel Pocket Guide

Get this 50 pages guide totally for FREE. It contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip. You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you should take, how to get there and get around, where to stay (general info), what will it cost.. and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.

Plan and Bring to the Trip... the full Destination Cape York Travel Guide

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This complete 300 pages travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my vehicle-recovery-guy partner). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)

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