We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. Find out more in our Privacy Policy. By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies.

Send an enquiry

Enquiry sent

Thank you for your enquiry. Our customer service team will contact you shortly.

More than quokkas: Discover Rottnest Island's diverse wildlife

Profile of an eastern osprey against a sunset sky

Quokkas are not the only Rottnest Island animals to watch out for. This idyllic island off the coast of Perth is home to a surprising array of wildlife. Without many invasive species on the island, most of the animals live without feral predators. This offers some amazing opportunities to observe the animals in their natural habitat.

So if you are ready for some unforgettable wildlife encounters, it’s time to start planning a getaway to Rottnest Island. Read about these animals found on Rottnest Island and see how many you can spot on your next trip.

Long-nosed fur seals
Long-nosed fur seals. Image credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Rottnest Island is home to friendly mammals and marine life

By far the best-known animal on Rottnest Island is the photogenic quokka. These adorable marsupials are known as the happiest animals on Earth for their smiling faces and inquisitive nature. About 10,000 quokkas live on Rottnest Island and they can usually be easily spotted around the island.

Quokkas are certainly the most famous native inhabitants of Rottnest Island. But, contrary to popular belief, they are not the only mammals found on the island. White-striped free-tailed bats also call the island home. They are one of the few bat species whose echolocation calls are audible to humans. Listen out for them at night as they feed on flying insects above the vegetation.

Humpback whale in the water near Rottnest Island
Humpback Whale. Image credit: Rottnest Island Authority

The waters surrounding Rottnest Island are also home to several species of mammals. Head to Cathedral Rocks for the chance to spot long-nosed fur seals and Australian sea lions. Up to 80 seals live in the Rottnest Island colony, dining on the abundant squid, octopuses, and fish in the area.

You might also spot bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the waves below at Cathedral Rocks. From September to November, keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales making their annual migration.

Rottnest Island is a birdwatcher's paradise

Wadjemup / Rottnest Island’s unique ecosystems provide a range of habitats for over 100 different bird species. Twitchers can delight in excellent bird-watching opportunities around the island’s salt lakes, woodlands and coastline.

Living without the threat of cats on the island, several species of small birds are able to thrive on Rottnest Island. Amongst the trees of Rottnest Island’s woodlands, you can spot charming little birds including red-capped wrens, scrub wrens, silvereyes and golden whistlers. And be sure to keep an eye out for the colourful plumage of the rainbow bee-eater.

Rainbow bee-eater
Rainbow bee-eater. Image credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Along the coast, there are plenty of opportunities to spot seabirds as they soar in the sky or fish for food in the ocean. Cormorants can often be seen popping their head in and out of the water in between diving for fish. Along the beach, Australian pied oystercatchers mine for molluscs and worms in the sand. And exposed reef along the coast of Rottnest Island is the perfect feeding ground for the eastern reef egret.

The Eastern osprey takes advantage of Rottnest Island’s rocky shoreline to build its large nest of sticks and other scavenged materials. You can view one of these nests, and hopefully even an eastern osprey itself, on a rocky outcrop offshore near Little Salmon Bay.

Eastern osprey
Eastern osprey. Image credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Another bird that makes its home amongst the rocky crevices of Rottnest Island is the rock parrot. The olive-green parrot is able to nest away from the threat of feral predators and feed on the seeds and succulents found on the island.

The Rottnest Island wetlands attract a range of bird species including fairy terns, bridled terns and red neck phalarope. You may also spot Australian shelducks which nest away from the salt lakes, but bring their ducklings to the area when they are only 2 days old. Rottnest Island is home to about 40 Australian shelducks, which usually mate for life.

Rottnest Island's cold blooded friends and foes

Quokka and king's skink
Quokka with king's skink. Image credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Birds are not the only ones attracted to Rottnest Island’s wetlands. You might not be able to easily see them, but you will probably hear many of the amphibians that call the brackish waters of the salt lakes home. Noisy moaning frogs, motorbike frogs and squelching froglets are difficult to observe in the wild, but their calls fill the air in the evening.

One animal that doesn’t have trouble finding the island’s frogs is the Rottnest Island dugite. Yes, that’s right, there are snakes on Rottnest Island. Like its mainland cousin, the common dugite, the Rottnest Island dugite eats frogs, lizards and small birds. It can grow up to 2 metres long and is highly venomous. But don’t let the fear of a chance encounter spoil your trip to Rottnest Island. The snakes are naturally shy and their bites can be treated with an antivenom. Be sure to seek immediate medical attention in the highly unlikely event you are bitten.

The warm waters of the Leeuwin Current bring with it sea life from the tropical north, including the green turtle. Look for them in the shallows of the bays or around seagrass meadows.

Rottnest Island's unbeatable underwater world

Surrounded by ocean waters fed by the tropical Leeuwin Current, Rottnest Island is home to an array of marine life. From tropical fish to octopus, sting rays to western rock lobsters, there are stacks of animals to discover under the water at Rottnest Island.

The best way to observe the abundant marine life of Rottnest Island is to grab a snorkel mask and dive in. Around the island there are plenty of top snorkelling spots where you can dive in straight from the beach.

Rottnest Island fish
Rottnest Island fish. Image credit: Rottnest Island Authority

If you’re getting in the water, you may be wondering – are there sharks at Rottnest Island? Sharks are found in the waters around Perth and Rottnest Island, but are rarely sighted near the shallow waters of Rotto’s protected bays and beaches. However, if you can’t get Jaws out of your head, head to the Basin, where surf life savers are on patrol, and download the Sharksmart WA app before you go.

From the skies to the water, Wadjemup / Rottnest Island offers some of Perth’s best wildlife encounters. Unleash your inner David Attenborough on your next trip over to Rottnest Island. Our friends from the animal kingdom can't wait to meet you.

Products related to this article

Related articles