History - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityAustralian animalsCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other CountriesAustralian Prehistory

Australian Environmental Issues

A true-blue battler

Box jellyfish
How to avoid the stings and what to do if stung

So you wrestle crocs...

Unfairly judged in killing off the thylacine?

The wise little gnomes of Australia

Victors of the great Emu war

Shaping everything from how Australians speak to how they salute

Funnel Web spider
Yyou'll never leave your ugg boots outside

Most herbivores don't grow a spine until they are the size of an elephant. Not so the roo.

Kill less people than cows

Shark attack Australia
How to ensure you don't go by the name of Bob

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Keg of muscle

The mainland's largest marsupial carnevore

Mythical creatures
Yowies and dropbears; some say they are myths but those who are not afraid to talk have shared their stories






Australian birds

Australian birds
Mad, cocky, deceptive and a nuisance

Lyre Bird

The Australian Lyre Bird is mermaid of the avian world. A beautiful creature with long flowing tail feathers, the Lyre Bird is a master of deception; able to mimic the calls of 15 different species of birds in their locality and string the calls into a melody.

As well as mimicking other birds, the Lyre Bird can even mimic human sounds. So successful at their art, they have been known to lead bushman astray with their siren songs.


The Cockie is a bird of tremendous expression; both with its head feathers and vocal chords. As they are able to mimic human words, as pets they are often trained to make lewd requests of female visitors. The Cockie may make the request with feathers raised to resemble a cheeky bastard and then lower them in an act of contrition.


Emus are large flightless birds that grow to about two metres tall, have thick busy feathers and long thin legs. They are very much the goat of the bird world, eating seeds, plant shoots, insects, small animals, and even other animal droppings.

The female dominates the male during pair formation but once incubation begins, the male becomes aggressive to other Emus, including his mate. The female wanders away and may mate again. Meanwhile, the male spends the next 55 days sitting on his nest.


Also known as the 'bushman's clock', Kookaburras are from the kingfisher family and are renowned for stealing the prized goldfish from homeowner's ponds.

The Kookaburra has a distinctive laugh which is intended to act as a warning to other Kookaburras. However to homeowners who have lost their prized goldfish, tha laugh may sound infuriatingly mocking.

Although they may be a nuisance, there is no doubting the Kookaburra's courage. They have a keen eye for snakes and rats and will kill them by taking them to the sky and then dropping them from a height.

Kookaburras live in family groups and are fiercely territorial, even to the point of attacking their own reflection in a mirror or window.


Originally called Rosehiller, the name is derived from Rosehill in Sydney where it was first discovered in the early days of the colony.

Although beautiful birds, they are the bane of fruit tree owners. They seem to have an innate knowledge of when ripening fruit will be picked and will attack only days earlier.

Wedged-Tailed Eagle

A huge bird of prey, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle is the fourth largest eagle in the world. It has a wing-span of 2.3 metres and may build a nest 2.5 metres across.

It is usually seen soaring high with motionless wings but is capable of impressive bursts of speed when attacking a victim.

It primarily feeds on carrion and rabbits but will also take small marsupials, Dingo pups, Galahs or lambs.

Because they take lambs, they are often shot by farmers. This is short-sighted thinking for although they take lambs for a brief period of the year, for the rest of the year they take the rabbits that compete with the lambs for food or cause soil erosion. They also take Dingo pups that grow up to attack full grown sheep. Finally, by cleaning farms of carrion, they reduce the risk of blowfly strike.

Australian Magpie

The Australian Magpie is found all over Australia and is notorious for swooping humans during the breeding season.

Although the attacks may be a nuisance, the Magpie compensates by feeding on small snakes and insects. They also are popular for melodious carolling, often singing in company at dawn and dusk.


Galahs frequent open country in pairs or in flocks. As individuals they look rather dull, with a pale pink breast, white head and a grey back. But as a flock in flight, the wheeling birds present a striking spectacle of colour as they alternatively reveal their rosy breasts, white heads and light reflects off their grey wings.

When disturbed, they may raise with loud cries, hence giving rise to the expression "as mad as a gum tree full of Galahs."

Activity 1 - Icon

Below are examples of Australian birds being used as icons. For each example, try to speculate what the designers/selectors were hoping to achieve by using the image of the birds.  

1) The Rosella features on the Arnotts logo.

2) The Wedged-Tailed Eagle is the moniker of the West Coast AFL team.

3) The Magpie is the moniker of the Collingwood AFL team and the Port Adelaide SANFL team.

4) A Murray Magpie (piping shrike) represents South Australia on the shield of the Australian Coat of Arms.

5) The Kangaroo and Emu are two animals that can not walk backwards. As a metaphor of the great Australian trait to leave baggage in the past and look optimistically to the future, the two hold the shield on the Australian Coat of Arms .

6) The Lyre Bird features on the Australian 10 cent piece.

7) The Kookaburra features on the 1919-21 Trial Pennies & Halfpennies, 1989 Silver $10 Dollar Birds of Australia and the Perth Mint Bullion Silver - Since 1990.

8) The Kookaburra is the moniker of the Australian hockey team.

9) In one Aboriginal legend, Agoodenout, the keeper of the sun's fire, sent the kookaburra to awaken man and all the bushland creatures to the glories of a new day

Activity 2 - Industry

Below are methods that allow some people to make money out of the Australian birds. How do you think working in each industry would affect attitudes to the birds?

1)Oil and meat- In the pioneering age, Emus were hunted for their oil. In recent times, Emu farming is a growing industry. Under good captive conditions, a pair of Emus may produce ten eggs a year, which yield on average 5.5 chicks. At the end of 15 months, these would yield 4m2 of leather, 150 kg of meat, 5.5 kg of feathers, and 2.7 litres of oil. Eggshells of infertile eggs are suitable for carving.

2) Pets - Cockatoos, Galahs and Rosellas are sold as cage birds.

3) Feathers - The tail-feathers of the Lyre Bird are sometimes incorporated into elegant hats.




Invasive ferals


Carp and Trout
A tale of two ferals

New hope for Cane Toads
The many unknown predators of the toad

A fence almost 2,000 km long to keep rabbits out of WA? Sounds like a great idea! If it doesn't work, we'll build another one!

The Willow
How a change in its status from asset to weed led to fish kills with blackwater and blue-green algae outbreaks

To bait dingos?
Should the health of the ecosystem be considered or just the kennel club registration?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Environmental values

Environmental problems
How money and ideology shapes environmental "science."

Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with gum trees.

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Climate change in Australia
Australia was once covered in rainforest. Could it be again?

The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?




Australian environmental science is defined by an ideology that is not unlike a prison warden. There, the scientists are not seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem, but as masters over it; protecting the rights of the species that they say have rights and killing those that they say do not…but inevitably killing both.

"It was always seen as desirable to remove or cull the introduced species. We also need to ask whether it was possible to do so, how it should be done, whether it could have unintended consequences and what it would cost? I don't think anyone really asked those questions." Physicist John Reid - 2012