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The Royal Botanic Garden and the Domain provide valuable ‘greenspace’ in the centre of the city. Visitors enjoy observing birds, reptiles, insects, spiders, fish and eels. You can also expect outdoor evening events to be accompanied by the occasional sounds of flying-foxes and possums foraging through the trees.

Many of us enjoy feeding birds and possums, but there are some good reasons why you shouldn’t:   

  • Handfeeding can make wildlife aggressive and a nuisance.
  • Feeding can make wildlife lazy. Animals start to depend on being fed by humans. They become scavengers instead of unique wildlife that we can be proud of.
  • Human food can make animals sick. Our snack food often contains too much salt and sugar, and can be fatal to birds. Poor nutrition can lead to bone deformities, reduced ability to cope with cold weather and susceptibility to disease.

Frogs, lizards, snakes and spiders:

You may encounter some of these animals in the Royal Botanic Garden and in the Domain. Please be aware that all reptiles are protected by law. Many native reptiles have poisonous bites. Do not attempt to handle them. If you think you have been bitten, seek help immediately - contact a Ranger (0419 270 279) or go to the Garden Shop for first aid. 

What to spot in the Garden

This list compiled by Volunteer Guide Jenny Pattison, November 2011. Please note that the list of wildlife is not complete, you can help us increase our knowledge by reporting your sightings of wildlife (especially insects and spiders) by submitting photos through the QuestaGame app.


Note: CW denotes that species is a ClimateWatch indicator species at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. See

KEY: C=Common, Res=Resident, Br=Breeds in Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, M=Migratory, V=Visitor, E=Exotic, CW=ClimateWatch sp

Listed in the Garden since 2000

Find out about the history of bird observations at the Royal Botanic Garden.

Common name Scientific name Notes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Black-Cockatoo, Yellow-tailed Calyptorhynchus funereus V
Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike Coracina novaehollandiae V
Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis C, Res, Br found in Middle Gardens
Butcherbird, Grey Cracticus torquatus C, Res, Br
Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae CW M, Br summer migrant, parasitises Currawong’s nest
Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus V
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris CW V, E
Cormorant, Great Phalacrocorax carbo V
Cormorant, Little Black Phalacrocorax sulcirostris C, Res, Br breeds on island in Main Pond
Cormorant, Little Pied Phalacrocorax melanoleucos C, Res, Br breeds on island in Main Pond
Currawong, Pied Strepera graculina C, Res, Br
Darter, Australian Anhinga melanogaster V
Duck, Australian Wood also called Maned Goose Chenonetta jubata C, Res, Br
Duck, Farmyard   C, E
Duck, Hardhead or White-eyed Aythya australis V
Duck, Pacific Black Anas superciliosa C, Res, Br
Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa C, Res, Br
Egret, Great Ardea alba V
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra V
Fantail, Grey Rhipidura fuliginosa CW M
Fantail, Rufous Rhipidura rufifrons M
Figbird Sphecotheres viridis V
Galah Cacatua roseicapilla V
Grebe, Australasian Tachybaptus novaehollandiae V
Ibis, Australian White Threskiornis molucca C, Res, Br
Indian or Common Myna Acridotheres tristis C, Res, Br, E
Koel, Common Eudynamys scolopacea CW M summer migrant, parasitises Noisy Miner nests
Kookaburra, Laughing Dacelo novaeguineae C
Magpie, Australian Gymnorhina tibicen CW C, Res, Br
Magpie-lark (Peewee) Grallina cyanoleuca CW V, C often on lawn below Tropical Centre
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos C, Br, E interbreeds with the Pacific Black Duck
Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles CW C, Res, Br
Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala C, Res, Br
Owl, Barn Tyto alba V
Owl, Powerful Ninox strenua Res Status: Vulnerable; seen regularly since 2009
Owl, Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae V
Pelican, Australian Pelecanus conspicillatus V
Pigeon, Feral or Common Columba livia C, Res, Br, E also called Rock Dove
Pigeon, Crested Ocyphaps lophotes CW C
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus C, Res, Br in flowering Black Bean Tree and eucalypts
Raven, Australian Corvus coronoides V
Rosella, Crimson Platycercus elegans V
Rosella, Eastern Platycercus eximius V
Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia V
Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus M
Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae C
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus V
Spotted Turtle-Dove Streptopelia chinensis C.E
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita C, Res, Br often on lawns 25 & 27
Superb Blue Wren Malurus cyaneus C, Res, Br seen in Palm Grove, near creek, in Fernery
Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides C, Res, Br roosts by day, often in pairs, close to tree trunk
Teal, Chestnut Anas castanea C, Br
Teal, Grey Anus gracilis C, Br
Tree Martin Hirundo nigricans C
Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena CW C
White-breasted Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster V
White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis Res, Br seen in Palm Grove
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae C
White-plumed Honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatis V
Willy Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys CW V

You will encounter flying foxes roosting during the day, but most other mammals can only be seen at night. Whilst we are fond of our resident populations of possums, unfortunately many are possums that have been caught in other parts of the city and ‘dumped’ here. Our land covers only a limited area and cannot support an over-population of possums, so these animals - already disoriented from being removed from their ‘home’ territories - become even more stressed.

Common name Scientific name Notes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Grey-headed Flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus A bat in suborder Megachiroptera
threatened species: vulnerable
predated by Powerful Owl
Black Flying Fox Pteropus alecto A bat in suborder Megachiroptera
a small colony in Garden since 2006
predated by Powerful Owl
Gould’s Wattled Bat Chalinolobus gouldii A bat in suborder Microchiroptera
commonly seen and heard microbat flying at dusk
Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecular Possum control
predated by Powerful Owl
Common Ringtail Possum  Pseudocheirus peregrinus Predated by Powerful Owl
Black Rat Rattus rattus E, came on First Fleet, pest in Garden, rat control
European Red Fox Vulpes vulpes E, fox control, fox has not been active in Garden since 2009
Feral cat Felis catus E, cat control
Common name Scientific name Notes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Golden Orb-weaving Spider Nephila plumipes Late summer to early winter
Dewdrop Spider Argyrodes sp. Kleptoparasitic spider found on Golden Orb webs
late summer to early winter
Leaf-curling Spider Phonognatha sp. Late summer to early winter
St Andrew’s Cross Spider Argiope heyserlingi Late summer to early winter
Net-casting Spider Deinopis subrufa Late summer to early winter, on cliveas in Palm Grove
Common name Scientific name Notes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Eastern Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii Around nursery, Fernery and Tropical Centre, near creek,
general insect predator
Eastern Blue-tongue Lizard  Tiliqua scinoides In Cadi, outside Reception, outside Education, in Succulent Garden, around Billabong, on path behind Trop Centre, around Herb Garden; controls slugs, snails, slaters
Saw-shelled Turtle Elseya latisternum Tropical Centre, moved by staff between Billabong and Pyramid main pond (Pyramid Oct 2011)
Common name Scientific name Notes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Peron’s Tree Frog Litoria peronii A local frog, in Billabong, troughs beside nursery general insect predator
Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog
Other name: Eastern Sedge Frog
Litoria fallax In Billabong on sedge Lepironia articulata general insect predator around Tropical Centre
Striped Marsh Frog Limnodynastes peronii CW
Common name Scientific name Notes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Longfinned Eel Anguilla reinhardtii Mostly in Main Pond; all ponds at some time except inside Pyramid; in creek
Mullet   In Main Pond, a native fish
Koi Carp   E , in Koi Carp Pond, see plaque next to pond
Rainbow Fish
Melanotaenia duboulayi In Pyramid and Billabong, native fish from Fraser Is, Qld
eats mosquito larvae
Silver Perch   In Fernery, native fish
Gold fish   E, in Fernery
Common name Scientific name Notes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Yabby     Cherax destructo  in Fernery, Billabong, Pyramid ponds
eats detritus in ponds

Plants mentioned are examples of that butterfly’s larval food plants in the Royal Botanic Garden (female butterfly lays its eggs on that plant). There are more butterflies in the Garden than what are listed here. There are also many moths, some of which are very colourful and are day-flying.

Common name Scientific name Notes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Southern Pearl-white Butterfly  Elodina angulipennis Rare & Threatened Garden, two Native Pomegranate trees,Capparis arborea
colony in the Garden since 1884
COMMON on sunny days all year
Caper White Butterfly Belenois java Rare & Threatened Garden, two Native Pomegranate trees,Capparis arborea
Cabbage White Butterfly Pieris rapae E, Rare & Threatened Garden, brassicas
Blue Triangle Butterfly Graphium sarpendon Various plants of Lauraceae and Monimiaceae, esp. Camphor Laurel;
in Garden includes Cinnamomum, Planchonella
COMMON in warmer months
Macleay’s Swallowtail Graphium macleayanus Various plants of Lauraceae, Winteraceae, Monimiaceae and Rutaceae, esp. Camphor Laurel
CW, COMMON in warmer months
Orchard Swallowtail 
Other names: Orchard Butterfly, Large Citrus Butterfly 
Papilio aegeus Rutaceae plants e.g. Flindersia australis and native and introduced citrus
CW, COMMON in warmer months
Dainty Swallowtail
Other names: Dingy Swallowtail, Small Citrus Butterfly
Papilio anactus Native and introduced citrus
Monarch Butterfly 
Other name: Wanderer Butterfly
Danaus plexippus E
Herb Garden
larval plant: milkweeds, in Garden Asclepias curassavica?, Stapelia grandiflora
Meadow Argus Butterfly Junonia villida Larval food plants includes Goodenia
COMMON in warmer months
Common Brown Butterfly Heteronympha merope On native grasses, Poaceae, bed 103b
Australian Painted Lady Vanessa kershawi Usually Asteraceae plants in Garden: Lavandula spp., Brachyscome spp., Bartlettna sordia, bed 33b
COMMON in warmer months
Yellow Admiral Butterfly
Other name: Australian Admiral
Vanessa itea COMMON in warmer months
Yellow Migrant Butterfly Catopsilia gorgophone Senna spp .
VISITOR late summer and autumn
Common Crow Butterfly  Euploea core Ficus macrophylla L29, native and exotics in Moraceae, Apocynaceae, Asclepiadaceae
COMMON VISITOR late summer, autumn
Common Pencil Blue Butterfly Candalides consimilis Many larval plants including Castanospermum, Erythrina, Millettia, Macadamia, Stenocarpus, Brachychiton, Harpullia, Cassia, Wisteria
Plumbago Blue Butterfly
Other name: Zebra Blue
Leptotes plinius Flower buds and flowers of Plumbago auriculata (exotic) in NSW; in QLD P. zeylanica (native)
Long-tailed Pea-blue Butterfly Lampides boeticus Flower buds and flowers of native and introduced legumes in Fabaceae
Common Jezebel Butterfly
Other name: Black Jezebel
Cephrenes augiedes Known as one of the ‘mistletoe butterflies’ as they breed on plants of the Loranthaceae family
COMMON in cooler months
Small Green-banded Blue Butterfly Psychonotis caelius Alphitonia excelsa, Red Ash, Bed 30 
more abundant in autumn, early winter
Honey Bee  Apis mellifera E, introduced into Australia about 1822
Blue Banded Bee Amegilla sp. Solitary native bee, feeds on Plectanthrus and mainly purple flowers; ‘buzz’ pollinator: research on pollination of tomato crops; some nest in mortar Info Booth
COMMON in warmer months
Trigona Bee Trigona carbonaria Stingless, social, native bee, produces honey 
10 000+ bees in nest in upright log in bed 13 (since Oct 07)
Teddy Bear Bee Amegilla cingulate Solitary native bee
see for info on native bees
COMMON in warmer months
Dragonfly species Anisoptera Billabong at Tropical Centre, Glass House tanks, other ponds, creek
Damselfly species Zygoptera Billabong at Tropical Centre, Glass House tanks, other ponds, creek
Cotton Harlequin Bug Tectocoris diopthalmus Attacks Norfolk Island Hibiscus, Lagunaria patersonia
Blowfly Family Calliphoridae In Succulent Garden, attracted to smelly carrion flowers ofStapelia
Hover Fly Family Syrphidae Mimics a wasp
Green Lacewing Mallada signata Predatory insect
biological control agent in Tropical Centre
Wasp, in figs Family Agaonidae Tiny, native fig pollinator 
specific wasp for each Ficus species
Moreton Bay Fig Psyllid or Lerp Insect Mycopsylla ficci The lerp is the covering, not the insect. Most species are host specific e.g. fig psyllid and eucalyptus psyllid
Parasitic wasp of Moreton Bay Fig Psyllid Psyllaephagus sp. Native wasp, parasitises fig psyllid larvae
Rose Aphid Macrosiphum rosae E, a bug, in Rose Garden, a pest
Parasitic wasp of Rose Aphid  Aphidius rosae E, introduced to Garden as biological control
parasitises aphids in Rose Garden
see Rose Aphid
Ladybird Beetle Family Coccinellidae A predatory beetle
larvae and adult eat aphids - biological control in Rose Garden
European Wasp Vespula germanica CW