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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 www.climatewatch.org.au.

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 nameScientific nameNotes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Black-Cockatoo, Yellow-tailedCalyptorhynchus funereusV
Black-faced Cuckoo-ShrikeCoracina novaehollandiaeV
Buff-banded RailGallirallus philippensisC, Res, Br found in Middle Gardens
Butcherbird, GreyCracticus torquatusC, Res, Br
Channel-billed CuckooScythrops novaehollandiaeCW M, Br summer migrant, parasitises Currawong’s nest
CockatielNymphicus hollandicusV
Common StarlingSturnus vulgarisCW V, E
Cormorant, GreatPhalacrocorax carboV
Cormorant, Little BlackPhalacrocorax sulcirostrisC, Res, Br breeds on island in Main Pond
Cormorant, Little PiedPhalacrocorax melanoleucosC, Res, Br breeds on island in Main Pond
Currawong, PiedStrepera graculinaC, Res, Br
Darter, AustralianAnhinga melanogasterV
Duck, Australian Wood also called Maned GooseChenonetta jubataC, Res, Br
Duck, Farmyard C, E
Duck, Hardhead or White-eyedAythya australisV
Duck, Pacific BlackAnas superciliosaC, Res, Br
Dusky MoorhenGallinula tenebrosaC, Res, Br
Egret, GreatArdea albaV
Eurasian CootFulica atraV
Fantail, GreyRhipidura fuliginosaCW M
Fantail, RufousRhipidura rufifronsM
FigbirdSphecotheres viridisV
GalahCacatua roseicapillaV
Grebe, AustralasianTachybaptus novaehollandiaeV
Ibis, Australian WhiteThreskiornis moluccaC, Res, Br
Indian or Common MynaAcridotheres tristisC, Res, Br, E
Koel, CommonEudynamys scolopaceaCW M summer migrant, parasitises Noisy Miner nests
Kookaburra, LaughingDacelo novaeguineaeC
Magpie, AustralianGymnorhina tibicenCW C, Res, Br
Magpie-lark (Peewee)Grallina cyanoleucaCW V, C often on lawn below Tropical Centre
MallardAnas platyrhynchosC, Br, E interbreeds with the Pacific Black Duck
Masked LapwingVanellus milesCW C, Res, Br
Noisy MinerManorina melanocephalaC, Res, Br
Owl, BarnTyto albaV
Owl, PowerfulNinox strenuaRes Status: Vulnerable; seen regularly since 2009
Owl, Southern BoobookNinox novaeseelandiaeV
Pelican, AustralianPelecanus conspicillatusV
Pigeon, Feral or CommonColumba liviaC, Res, Br, E also called Rock Dove
Pigeon, CrestedOcyphaps lophotesCW C
Rainbow LorikeetTrichoglossus haematodusC, Res, Br in flowering Black Bean Tree and eucalypts
Raven, AustralianCorvus coronoidesV
Rosella, CrimsonPlatycercus elegansV
Rosella, EasternPlatycercus eximiusV
Royal SpoonbillPlatalea regiaV
Sacred KingfisherTodiramphus sanctusM
Silver GullLarus novaehollandiaeC
Spangled DrongoDicrurus bracteatusV
Spotted Turtle-DoveStreptopelia chinensisC.E
Sulphur-crested CockatooCacatua galeritaC, Res, Br often on lawns 25 & 27
Superb Blue WrenMalurus cyaneusC, Res, Br seen in Palm Grove, near creek, in Fernery
Tawny FrogmouthPodargus strigoidesC, Res, Br roosts by day, often in pairs, close to tree trunk
Teal, ChestnutAnas castaneaC, Br
Teal, GreyAnus gracilisC, Br
Tree MartinHirundo nigricansC
Welcome SwallowHirundo neoxenaCW C
White-breasted Sea-EagleHaliaeetus leucogasterV
White-browed ScrubwrenSericornis frontalisRes, Br seen in Palm Grove
White-faced HeronEgretta novaehollandiaeC
White-plumed HoneyeaterLichenostomus penicillatisV
Willy WagtailRhipidura leucophrysCW 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 nameScientific nameNotes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Grey-headed Flying-foxPteropus poliocephalusA bat in suborder Megachiroptera
threatened species: vulnerable
predated by Powerful Owl
Black Flying FoxPteropus alectoA bat in suborder Megachiroptera
a small colony in Garden since 2006
predated by Powerful Owl
Gould’s Wattled BatChalinolobus gouldiiA bat in suborder Microchiroptera
commonly seen and heard microbat flying at dusk
Common Brushtail PossumTrichosurus vulpecularPossum control
predated by Powerful Owl
Common Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus peregrinusPredated by Powerful Owl
Black RatRattus rattusE, came on First Fleet, pest in Garden, rat control
European Red FoxVulpes vulpesE, fox control, fox has not been active in Garden since 2009
Feral catFelis catusE, cat control
Common nameScientific nameNotes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Golden Orb-weaving SpiderNephila plumipesLate summer to early winter
Dewdrop SpiderArgyrodes sp.Kleptoparasitic spider found on Golden Orb webs
late summer to early winter
Leaf-curling SpiderPhonognatha sp.Late summer to early winter
St Andrew’s Cross SpiderArgiope heyserlingiLate summer to early winter
Net-casting SpiderDeinopis subrufaLate summer to early winter, on cliveas in Palm Grove
Common nameScientific nameNotes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Eastern Water DragonPhysignathus lesueuriiAround nursery, Fernery and Tropical Centre, near creek,
general insect predator
Eastern Blue-tongue Lizard Tiliqua scinoidesIn Cadi, outside Reception, outside Education, in Succulent Garden, around Billabong, on path behind Trop Centre, around Herb Garden; controls slugs, snails, slaters
Saw-shelled TurtleElseya latisternumTropical Centre, moved by staff between Billabong and Pyramid main pond (Pyramid Oct 2011)
Common nameScientific nameNotes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Peron’s Tree FrogLitoria peroniiA local frog, in Billabong, troughs beside nursery general insect predator
Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog
Other name: Eastern Sedge Frog
Litoria fallaxIn Billabong on sedge Lepironia articulata general insect predator around Tropical Centre
Striped Marsh FrogLimnodynastes peroniiCW
Common nameScientific nameNotes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Longfinned EelAnguilla reinhardtiiMostly 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 duboulayiIn Pyramid and Billabong, native fish from Fraser Is, Qld
eats mosquito larvae
Silver Perch In Fernery, native fish
Gold fish E, in Fernery
Common nameScientific nameNotes - 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 nameScientific nameNotes - Key: E Exotic, CW ClimateWatch sp.
Southern Pearl-white Butterfly Elodina angulipennisRare & Threatened Garden, two Native Pomegranate trees,Capparis arborea
colony in the Garden since 1884
COMMON on sunny days all year
Caper White ButterflyBelenois javaRare & Threatened Garden, two Native Pomegranate trees,Capparis arborea
Cabbage White ButterflyPieris rapaeE, Rare & Threatened Garden, brassicas
Blue Triangle ButterflyGraphium sarpendonVarious plants of Lauraceae and Monimiaceae, esp. Camphor Laurel;
in Garden includes Cinnamomum, Planchonella
COMMON in warmer months
Macleay’s SwallowtailGraphium macleayanusVarious 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 aegeusRutaceae 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 anactusNative and introduced citrus
Monarch Butterfly 
Other name: Wanderer Butterfly
Danaus plexippusE
Herb Garden
larval plant: milkweeds, in Garden Asclepias curassavica?, Stapelia grandiflora
Meadow Argus ButterflyJunonia villidaLarval food plants includes Goodenia
COMMON in warmer months
Common Brown ButterflyHeteronympha meropeOn native grasses, Poaceae, bed 103b
Australian Painted LadyVanessa kershawiUsually Asteraceae plants in Garden: Lavandula spp., Brachyscome spp., Bartlettna sordia, bed 33b
COMMON in warmer months
Yellow Admiral Butterfly
Other name: Australian Admiral
Vanessa iteaCOMMON in warmer months
Yellow Migrant ButterflyCatopsilia gorgophoneSenna spp .
VISITOR late summer and autumn
Common Crow Butterfly Euploea coreFicus macrophylla L29, native and exotics in Moraceae, Apocynaceae, Asclepiadaceae
COMMON VISITOR late summer, autumn
Common Pencil Blue ButterflyCandalides consimilisMany larval plants including Castanospermum, Erythrina, Millettia, Macadamia, Stenocarpus, Brachychiton, Harpullia, Cassia, Wisteria
Plumbago Blue Butterfly
Other name: Zebra Blue
Leptotes pliniusFlower buds and flowers of Plumbago auriculata (exotic) in NSW; in QLD P. zeylanica (native)
Long-tailed Pea-blue ButterflyLampides boeticusFlower buds and flowers of native and introduced legumes in Fabaceae
Common Jezebel Butterfly
Other name: Black Jezebel
Cephrenes augiedesKnown as one of the ‘mistletoe butterflies’ as they breed on plants of the Loranthaceae family
COMMON in cooler months
Small Green-banded Blue ButterflyPsychonotis caeliusAlphitonia excelsa, Red Ash, Bed 30 
more abundant in autumn, early winter
Honey Bee Apis melliferaE, introduced into Australia about 1822
Blue Banded BeeAmegilla 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 BeeTrigona carbonariaStingless, social, native bee, produces honey 
10 000+ bees in nest in upright log in bed 13 (since Oct 07)
Teddy Bear BeeAmegilla cingulateSolitary native bee
see www.aussiebee.com for info on native bees
COMMON in warmer months
Dragonfly speciesAnisopteraBillabong at Tropical Centre, Glass House tanks, other ponds, creek
Damselfly speciesZygopteraBillabong at Tropical Centre, Glass House tanks, other ponds, creek
Cotton Harlequin BugTectocoris diopthalmusAttacks Norfolk Island Hibiscus, Lagunaria patersonia
BlowflyFamily CalliphoridaeIn Succulent Garden, attracted to smelly carrion flowers ofStapelia
Hover FlyFamily SyrphidaeMimics a wasp
Green LacewingMallada signataPredatory insect
biological control agent in Tropical Centre
Wasp, in figsFamily AgaonidaeTiny, native fig pollinator 
specific wasp for each Ficus species
Moreton Bay Fig Psyllid or Lerp InsectMycopsylla ficciThe 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 PsyllidPsyllaephagus sp.Native wasp, parasitises fig psyllid larvae
Rose AphidMacrosiphum rosaeE, a bug, in Rose Garden, a pest
Parasitic wasp of Rose Aphid Aphidius rosaeE, introduced to Garden as biological control
parasitises aphids in Rose Garden
see Rose Aphid
Ladybird BeetleFamily CoccinellidaeA predatory beetle
larvae and adult eat aphids - biological control in Rose Garden
European WaspVespula germanicaCW