Flora and Fauna
The Ross River is home to an abundance of animal and plant species. In a typical visit to the river precinct you may spot tortoises, any number of bird species and beautiful flowering native plants. Just some of the many species at Riverway are listed below to help you learn more about our friendly native residents.
Melaleuca leucadendra - Paperbark or tea tree
Large trees with a papery bark growing along the water's edge. When in flower the creamy white butterscotch scented bottle brush flowers are borne in large bunches at the end of each branch. It flowers in autumn and winter. When in flower the trees are a source of food for many of the local birds and animals. Lorikeets and flying fox especially love the nectar-rich flowers. Many parts of the trees were used by the traditional owners of the area. The bark was used for shelter, cooking and warmth and the nectar was added to water for sweet drinks.
Melaleuca dealbata - Cloudy tea tree
This species has a blue grey leaf.
Melaleuca fluviatilis - Fine leaf paperbark
This species has a more weeping form and a very thin leaf. In some places along the river they all grow together.
Typha sp - Cumbungi - Bull rush
Look for a tall strap leaf plant emerging from the water in large clumps. It is recognised for its brown “sausage on a stick” flower. The plant is home to many small fish and crustaceans under water as well as food and home for many large and small birds above the water. This includes magpie geese, that flatten rafts to nest on, and sun birds that build hanging nests from the ends of the leaves. The roots, rhizomes, were especially valued for their rich starch, while the young flower spikes were also eaten. The strap leaves also make functional twine.
Pandanus spiralis - Screw palm
Look for a small palm like tree or cluster with dark green stiff leathery strap leaves with backward facing short spines. Usually found where water is nearby. The fruit look like large pineapples and turn a bright orange when ripe. They are a favourite food for possums and many birds. The spiny nature of the plant means it provides protection and a home for many birds and small mammals especially possums. The fruit does require some treatment before being consumed. The seeds inside can be extracted and ground to make flour.
Emydurra krefftii - Krefft’s turtle
The Krefft’s turtle is a short neck freshwater tortoise that is abundant and widespread within the Ross River. Its carapace or shell is oval in shape and varies in colour from pale brown to black. A mature animal can reach 25cm in shell length. This species can be distinguished from other freshwater turtle species by the yellow-green stripe which extends back from the eye. The Krefft’s turtle food source includes molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic insects, tadpoles, frogs, fish, decaying matter and aquatic plants. Nesting occurs along the banks of the Ross River between September and January. Approximately 80 days later, young will emerge and are occasionally found along the walking tracks. They should be placed back into the river as they are independent from the time they hatch. Turtles can be observed basking on logs or the banks of Ross River during the day.
Trichosurus vulpecula - Common Brushtail possum
The Brushtail possum is the most common possum species located along the Ross River. This nocturnal animal lives in trees, and feeds predominantly on the new tips, buds, flowers and fruit of most native trees and plants. They are also known to consume some insects, grubs and graze on grasses. Their natural and preferred habitat is forest, where they nest in tree hollows. They will also cohabit with humans where they seek shelter, warmth and protection often in buildings and garden sheds. Brushtail possums can be seen about an hour after sunset, when they emerge from shelter to start foraging for food. Brushtail possums are usually solitary animals, but may occur in high densities in suburban areas.
The Ross River is recognised as a nationally important wetland with high conservation values. This waterway provides a habitat for many species, particularly when drought conditions prevail.
Areas between Apex Park and Loam Island have been revegetated under the Natural Heritage Trust program using local native species to provide a wildlife corridor for many species and provide connectivity between sites containing existing remnant vegetation.
Many bird species depend on the Ross River for survival. The riparian vegetation along the banks of the Ross River provides shelter, nesting and roosting sites for many birds. Bird species such as the Little Black Cormorant and the Darter are often seen resting on fallen trees within the river.
The Comb-crested Jacana bird, a medium-sized bird with long legs and enormous toes can be observed walking on floating vegetation. The Ross River and Reservoir is an important habitat for the rare Cotton pygmy-goose, a tiny white duck.
Other birds that are commonly seen include:
Pelecanus conspicillatus - Australian Pelican
Irediparra gallinacea - Comb-crested Jacana
Anhinga melanogaster - Darter
Phalacocorax sulcirostris - Little Black Cormorant
Anseranas semipalmata - Magpie Goose
Anas superciliosa - Pacific black duck
Merops ornatus - Rainbow bee eater