local wildlife

Local Wildlife

local wildlife

Victor Harbor is home to a diverse range of native wildlife. Seals, Dolphins, and South Australia’s Marine Emblem, the Leafy Sea Dragon all call the waters surrounding Victor Harbor and the Fleurieu home. Each winter we welcome the annual migration of Southern Right Whales who come to mate and calve in our warm Southern Waters. Back on land, Grey Kangaroos fill the surrounding hills at dawn each morning to graze while other more subtle species such as Ring Tail Possums and Echidnas secret themselves away along quiet walking trails, to learn more about the species of native fauna you may encounter while visiting Victor Harbor read on below.

local wildlife


local wildlife

New Zealand Fur Seal

The New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) has external ears and hind flippers that rotate forward making them visibly different to other seal species.

Once widely hunted for their skin and oil, populations rapidly fell to below 10% of their original number. Fortunately the introduction of the EPBC act in 1999 listed NZ Fur Seals as a protected species, allowing the struggling population to regrow once more. They are most numerous as the name suggests in New Zealand but, are also common on the rocky coasts of Southern Australia.

Fur seals hunt squid, fish and occasionally birds, causing an issue with the local “Little Penguin” population. Males are much bigger than the 40kg females often reaching up to 160kg.

local wildlife


local wildlife

Leafy Seadragon

So named for their “leafy” seaweed appearance Leafy Seadragons (Phycodurus eques) are one of only 2 Seadragon species found in South Australian waters.

Leafy Seadragons live in kelp covered rocky reefs where their leafy appendages offer an effective form of natural camouflage. As an additional defensive feature Seadragons are covered with bony plates each with a sharp spike at it’s tip. As with many sea horse and dragon species the males incubate the 100 – 250 eggs during mating season.

The near perfect camouflage of these creatures, combined with sharp the sharp spikes of it’s protective plates, mean these fish have no known natural predators. However, due to their popularity as pets, South Australia introduced strict legislation listing these creatures as Totally Protected.

They feed on mysid shrimp and other small crustaceans, plankton, and larval fishes. They swallow their prey whole, creating suction to suck the food item into their small mouth by expanding a joint on the lower part of their snout. A feeding technique that is similar to how a pipette works.

They are listed as the official Marine Emblem of South Australia.

local wildlife


local wildlife

Common Dolphin

The Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)  live in small groups of 1 to 50, these groups often band into larger pods that can number into the thousands, they move rapidly through the water often breaking the surface in what appear to be coordinated displays.

Common dolphins have a distinctive hour glass patch of tan or yellow that runs along each side, contrasting with the white of their bellies and dark grey of their backs and tails. These dolphins grow from 1.4 to 2.6m in length.

Feeding on fish and squid the Common Dolphin prefers warmer waters and are wide spread throughout South Australia. There is a local population of these dolphins in Victor Harbor that can often be found off shore of Granite Island or the Bluff.  Active and social Dolphins they have been observed interacting with seals and the migratory Southern Right Whale.

They enjoy acrobatics and can often be found “bow-riding” small vessels, a habit that is thought to be learnt from slip-streaming large whales.

local wildlife


local Wildlife 

Southern Right Whale (Winter Migration)

Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena australis) are the most common of the larger whales found in South Australian waters. Each winter from June through to September, Southern Right Whales can be found in Victor Harbor.  They visit our warm southern waters in order to mate, socialise and birth their vulnerable young.

Coloured grey to black with white patches known as blazes sometimes found on the belly, they have no dorsal fin on their back & white lumps called callosities on the head. Southern Right Whales are Baleen whales, meaning they are filter feeders. They use large sheets of baleen called ‘plates’ to sieve tiny marine crustaceans from the sea. They feed on vast quantities of microscopic krill & plankton at their summering grounds in the Antarctic.

Like most baleen whales Southern Rights have 2 blow holes resulting in a distinctive V-shaped blow. Some people may be surprised to learn that a whales “blow” is not water being expelled, but rather a combination of condensation and mucus that develops in the whales nasal cavities.

If you would like to learn more about Southern Right Whales why not book in for a group tour or an education class here at the SA Whale Centre?!

If you’d like to learn more about other whale species that can be found off the coast of South Australia, click here.

local wildlife


local wildlife

Little Penguin

The Little Penguin, (Eudyptula minor) also known as the Fairy Penguin because of it’s diminutive size, is the only species of penguin that breeds in Australia. Victor Harbor is home to a small colony of Little Penguins, residing across the Causeway on Granite Island.

Little Penguins are susceptible to a wide range of threats, their burrows are easily trampled, (So make sure you stick to the paths when visiting the Island.) introduced pests such as feral and domestic cats hunt them in their burrows and at sea they are preyed upon by Fur Seals and entangled in fishing nets. Despite the overwhelming threats against them, the population of Little Penguins in Australia is stable at around 1 million birds.

The colony at Victor Harbor is protected, with Granite Island closed to visitors during dusk when the Penguins are most active. During this time they hunt, socialise and then return to their hidden nests, dotted throughout the Island. The only way to see the Little Penguins during this time, is by participating in a guided tour.

local wildlife


local wildlife

Kookaburra

Kookaburra’s (Dacelo novaeguineae) are also known as the laughing bird for their unique raucous calls, that mimic human laughter. Their call is the most distinctive in the Australian Bush.

They have a white head and breast, dark brown upper wings and blue patches on the rump and wing coverts. They also sport an extremely large bill. these birds belong to the Kingfisher family and are one of the largest of this genus.

Kookaburras are co-operative breeders that live in groups of 2-9 birds. A group will hold a territory year round and all family members will defend this territory using their ‘laughing call’.

The alpha pair are thought to mate for life and the rest of the group is made up of “helpers”, offspring from previous years. Kookaburras breed in spring and early summer and live on a variety of insects and small animals such as skinks, frogs, and even small snakes. They spend long periods observing dangerous prey before swooping down to catch it, smaller prey is eaten whole, whilst larger prey such as snakes are beaten against a branch or dropped from a height to subdue it before being consumed by the group.

They inhabit open forests and woodland, with sparse under-stories of shrub, often near creeks and rivers. They prefer large trees with hollows for them to nest in. There is a local group that can often be found perched in the pine tree’s surrounding Victor Harbor’s foreshore and occasionally within Warland Reserve, outside the Whale Centre.

local wildlife


local wildlife

White-bellied Sea Eagle

The White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) is the second largest raptor (bird of prey) found in Australia. These large predatory birds have distinctive black flight feathers visible from below, they form a stark contrast with the birds otherwise white/grey plumage.

White-bellied Sea Eagles can be found along much of coastal Australia, where they feed mostly from aquatic animals such as turtles, sea snakes and fish.

These large birds form permanent mating couples and will often use the same nest season after season, lining it with fresh green leaves and twigs. Nests are usually built in trees more than 30m off ground, but enterprising birds will also build nests on the ground or amoungst rocks if no suitable tree can be found.

Local Wildlife


Local Wildlife

Hooded Plover

The Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis) only lives on beaches backed by sand dunes. They lay their eggs in shallow holes during the late spring to early summer, when the beaches are at their busiest, unfortunately this creates huge problems for the Plover, as their eggs (each the size of a 20c piece) are easily crushed underfoot.

Recently hatched chicks are easily frightened and their proximity to human activity often means they startle and go into hiding. This prevents the chicks from venturing out to find food, forcing mother birds to venture out alone, leaving their vulnerable young unattended.

For this reason many sand dunes in Victor Harbor are closed during Plover breeding season. The closed beaches are well signed and should be avoided to give this endangered species the best chance at breeding success.

“Because beach-nesting birds have such poor breeding success, their numbers are declining and it won’t be long before they become extinct. They are in desperate need of a helping hand”

For more information and easy ways to help protect beach-nesting bird species visit: birdlife.org.au/projects/beach-nesting-birds/for-beach-users

local wildlife


local wildlife

Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo

The Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus) is a large cockatoo, reaching up to 65cm in length. They are easily distinguished by their black plumage edged with contrasting yellow. They have a yellow cheek patch, that is larger in females and a complimentary yellow panel running underneath it’s tail. When in flight Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos flap deeply and slowly, with a peculiar heavy fluid motion, despite this they are known to be fast and agile in the air.

Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo’s feed in large noisy flocks, eating a diet heavy in wood-boring grubs, native nuts and seeds, pine cones and eucalypts.  They live in a wide variety of habitats, from Riverbanks to Shrub land, but, they have been noted to have a particular affinity for Eucalyptus forests and pine plantations.

Both sexes help construct a nest in a large hollow tree. The Cockatoos then  line it with wood chips before nesting. The female lays 2 white eggs, which she then incubates while the male supplies her with food. Once hatched, the chicks are looked after by both of their parents for around six months.

local wildlife


local wildlife

Western Grey Kangaroo

The Western Grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus melanops) is one of the largest and most abundant of all Kangaroo species. Male western grey,s are much larger and stockier than their female counterparts, growing up to 140cm from head to posterior with the tail measuring an additional 95-100cm. In comparison, Females measure at around 85-120cm with an average tail length of 75cm.

The long tail acts as a rudder assisting in balance and steering whilst in movement. However, it can also be used to support the Kangaroo’s entire weight during a fight with a rival male. In this case the Kangaroo will lift both hind legs balancing purely on the tail to launch a double kick at it’s foe’s stomach. Fortunately males of this species are equipped with a thick layer of skin across the abdomen as protection against these ferocious kicks.

Western grey kangaroos have powerful, enlarged hindquarters to give them the strength needed for their incredible bounding movements and ankles that are adapted to prevent sideways rotation. This means that the Western Grey will never twist it’s ankle while hopping.

These large Kangaroo’s are a light to dark brown on top that fades to a silver/grey underbelly and leg. Western Grey Kangaroos can be found throughout Victor Harbor’s surrounds, often found grazing in the open pastures at dawn and dusk each day.

local wildlife


local wildlife

Short Beaked Echidna

The Short Beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is the only species of Echidna found in Australia.

Echidnas are Egg laying mammals known as monotremes. They lay one egg at a time which hatch after around 10 days gestation. The young are tiny, blind and hairless, they survive by clinging to to the shorts hairs that line the mothers pouch. There the young suckle continuously for 2 to 3 months until they develop spines and become too prickly to remain in the mothers pouch. The mother will then build a burrow where the young will live and continue to suckle for a further 6 months.

Echindas prey on ants and termites, breaking the nests open with it’s sharp claws and using it’s  slender snout and long sticky tongue to extract the insects.

Echidnas are often seen at The Bluff, and along quite walking trails in the area. However, they are a shy species and can be quite difficult to spot.

local wildlife


local wildlife

Ring Tail Possum

The Ring Tail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) has adapted well to living in close proximity to humans and can be found living in quiet suburban gardens. There is a small population that inhabits Granite Island in Victor Harbor and those who take a nature tour at dusk are likely to see one or two of these nocturnal creatures out foraging.

They are around the size of a small cat, with a long prehensile tail that they may use as a fifth limb when climbing and jumping between connecting branches, fences and even powerlines.  They have forefeet that feature a wide gap between the second and third finger allowing the Possum to hold onto branches securely. For a species that is almost entirely tree dwelling, this is an extremely useful feature.

Ring Tail Possums are coloured a dark grey with white patches behind the eyes, on the belly and the tail tip. They may also sport orange – brown tinges on their tail and limbs. They feed on a variety of both native and introduced plant leaves as well as flowers and fruits. Ring Tails, like rabbits produce fecal matter known as cecotropes which are dark soft and tarry, these are consumed by the Possum to extract any remaining nutrients.

local wildlife