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Birds

Fairy Penguin

The Little or Fairy Penguin is the only species of penguin breeding in Australian coastal waters. There is a breeding colony on Troubridge Island, near Edithburgh, and they are occasional visitors to the more northern parts of the gulfs. Penguins are easily distinguished from other birds on the surface by their short necks and flattish backs. Unlike most other water birds their wings provide the main power for swimming, and are extended when they are in the water. The feet are used on land for walking and in the water for steering.

pelicans Coobowie-RobynClasohmPelican

One of the largest flying birds in Australia, they are common at coastal areas and can be seen swimming off beaches and congregating to rest on sandbanks and rocky platforms. Males are larger than females. The most characteristic feature of pelicans is the elongated bill with its massive throat pouch. The Pelican's bill is 40 cm - 50 cm long and is larger in males than females. They have a wingspan of 2.3 m - 2.5 m. Pelicans can become tangled in discarded fishing line or choke on plastic bags and other litter thrown in waterways.

Gulls and Ternspt vincent seagull

Gulls and terns are common shore birds all around the world. Gulls feed on scraps and dead material at the sea surface or ashore, some species often being seen far from water, while terns take live food from the water surface, or just below it. They fly with head turned down to spot morsels on which they dive. Terns have pointed beaks and are more slender, with longer wings and shorter legs than gulls, which are more robustly built in order to handle larger food items.

Mallee Fowl

Mallee Fowl are shy, ground-dwelling birds about the size of a domestic chicken. Mallee fowl males make a nest by scratching dirt, leaves, sticks and other vegetation into a mound, often 2 to 3 metres across and 1.5m high. Nest building and maintenance takes about 11 months of the year, so the birds are usually seen in the vicinity of their nests. The vegetation in the nest decomposes, just like a compost heap, and the heat produced hatches the eggs. The eggs are placed in the mound by the female, often laying up to 30 eggs over the spring and summer months. The male then tends to the nesting mound, keeping the temperature at a constant level by adding more dirt, or removing it. On hatching, the chicks must dig up out of the mound, which can take up to 15 hours. The young can fly within hours of hatching. Once they leave the nest, they run straight off into the bush, fending for themselves from the first day.

Emus

Emus are commonly seen around the Peninsula, and are prolific in Innes National Park. Emus are Australia's largest bird, at around two metres tall when fully grown, but they can't fly because their wings are too small. Emus can travel great distances, and when necessary, can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour. They breed during May and June, and the female can mate several times per season laying multiple clutches of eggs which the male incubates. While the male sits on the eggs, he does not eat or drink anything, and loses a significant amount of weight. Once the eggs hatch, they are raised by their fathers and can remain together as a family until the next breeding season.

Hooded Plover

Hooded Plovers are small coastal shorebirds. They are found along sandy coasts of Yorke Peninsula, and around some inland salt lakes. They have a distinctive black hood and throat that give them their name, a red ring around their eyes and a black tipped orange bill. Pairs of Hooded Plovers establish territories to live and breed in and they forage on the beach finding food at the water's edge. They feed on insects, water plants, seeds and marine worms. They make their nests in small scrapes between the high tide line and the sand dunes during spring and summer. Coastal development and increased human activity on the coast is a major threat to the Hooded Plover, especially during the summer nesting period. Vehicles and dogs on the beach destroy nests, eggs and chicks, as well as chasing adults away from their nests, which often leads to the death of the chicks. Only 230 birds remain on the peninsula. Dedicated local volunteers monitor pairs of Hooded Plovers over the breeding season each year.

If you'd like to see what our Hooded Plovers are up to right now, you can sign up to the MyBeachBirds Portal and follow their progress from home. 

White-Bellied Sea-Eagle

The endangered White-bellied Sea-Eagle is a large bird of prey, with a wing span of up to 2.2 metres. They are very graceful in flight, seen soaring over the sea, or perching on rocks or branches near the water. They hunt fish, reptiles, birds and rabbits. The birds mate for life, and can live up to 30 years old. They nest on cliffs or in trees along the 'toe' of southern Yorke Peninsula and their home ranges can extend up to 100 square kilometres. Nesting pairs are very sensitive to human disturbance, and human activity can cause them to abandon their nests. The loss of nesting sites due to development, and difficulty finding food due to overfishing are major threats to the White-bellied sea eagle.

 

Animals

Tammar Wallaby

The Mainland SA subspecies of Tammar Wallaby were once believed to be extinct. In 1998 zoologists were very pleased to discover that former South Australian Governor, Sir George Grey had taken a small population of the subspecies to Kawau Island near New Zealand for his personal collection of exotic species in 1862. In a joint operation with the New Zealand Government, eighty five wallabies were returned to Monarto Zoo in South Australia. Innes National Park was chosen as the first re-introduction site, and in November 2004 ten wallabies were released, with thirty six more released in June 2005. Only reaching a maximum of about 70 centimetres high, they are sometimes seen around dusk, feeding in open grassy areas of the park.

Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat

Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats are great diggers, excavating extensive deep and cool burrow systems known as warrens, which are usually inhabited by five to ten wombats and have several entrances. Unfortunately this means some farmers are not that fond of them, as they can cause risks to life and property on the farms that they call home. However these burrows are vital for the wombats' survival in this hot, waterless environment. Although they appear to be slow, lazy animals, they can actually reach speeds of up to 40 kms per hour. They are the smallest of the three species of Australian wombat, and weigh up to 32 kilograms. The teeth of the hairy nosed wombat continue to grow for their whole lives. Yorke Peninsula populations are genetically different from those in other parts of South Australia and are endangered. They were once common across the peninsula, however their habitat range on the peninsula is limited now due to agriculture, and populations are quite isolated from each other and therefore do not have high genetic diversity. The estimated total wombat population on Yorke Peninsula today is around 640 individuals, spread across 24 colonies.

Western Pygmy Possum

A small nocturnal marsupial, the Western Pygmy Possum has cinnamon coloured fur above and white below, which is distinctly different from its close relatives. These super cute little marsupials have a prehensile tail which is perfect for hanging onto branches. They're found in scrub areas of much of southern Yorke Peninsula. You'll need keen eyesight to spot these tiny marsupials as they are mostly active at night, only weigh about 13 grams and are so small they can fit in the palm of your hand. On the ground, these fragile little creatures often fall victim to cats, foxes and birds, so they take shelter in tree hollows, under loose bark, or sometimes in abandoned bird's nests. Luckily, they are prolific breeders, litters of up to six young are common and breeding takes place two or three times per year. Pygmy possum's favourite food is the nectar of the myrtle family and they can often be seen searching it out. When their food is scarce and if it gets too cold, they fold their ears over their eyes and curl up into a little ball, falling asleep for several days to conserve their energy.

Goannas

Two large Goanna species occur on Yorke Peninsula, the Sand Goanna and the Heath Goanna. Both species are similar in size and appearance and are hard to distinguish apart from the colour of their tail tip. Sand Goanna's have a pale tail tip in contrast to its body, and Heath Goanna's have a tail tip the same colour as its body. The Heath Goanna was once common across the peninsula, but habitat loss, cats, foxes and road mortality have caused numbers to decline. The Heath Goanna has strong limbs, sharp claws and long muscular tails. They also have large curled teeth that help them hold on to prey. These powerful reptiles feed on small birds and mammals, small reptiles, insects and spiders. They forage over large areas of up to 1000 hectares! The female lays eggs in active termite mounds, and the male and female guard the mound to ward off predators until the termites repair the mound around the eggs. The eggs take eight months to hatch, and the young must dig their way out of the mound, which can take several weeks! They can grow up to 1.5 metres long. Like all reptiles, Heath Goannas have limited ability to control their body temperature, and need to bask in the sun for at least half an hour a day before becoming active.

 

Sea Creatures

Leafy Sea Dragon

This leafy fellow is South Australia's marine emblem. They are found around the coast of Yorke Peninsula in sheltered waters where there is plenty of sea grass, rocky reef, or structures covered by seaweed. They are slow moving creatures, and rely on their excellent camouflage to protect them from predators. The Leafy Seadragon is able to travel hundreds of metres from home, and return to exactly the same place. On average they grow to about 30cm, but they can grow up to 45cm long and can change colour depending on their age, diet, location and stress level. Leafy Seadragons have long tubular snouts with small toothless mouths to suck up food. They eat plankton and other small crustaceans and fish. Females deposit their eggs on a special spongy section under the male seadragons tail, where he carries them for up to six weeks while they develop. Once the young are released by the male, they are completely independent. Leafy Seadragons are very hard to see from above, so when trying to find them get low and look up, checking closely around weed that resembles them.

Dolphin

Two species of dolphin are seen off the coast of Yorke Peninsula, the Short-beaked Common Dolphin, which prefers deeper oceanic waters and the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin, which is commonly seen in more sheltered areas along the coast. Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins grow to about 2.5 metres long and weigh about 160 kilograms. They can live for up to 40 years. Like whales, dolphins breathe through a blowhole on the top of their heads. They are highly sociable animals and are commonly found in groups called pods. These pods of up to 10 dolphins hunt, play and protect each other. They have excellent eyesight above and below water, and can dive to depths of more than 500 metres. Most members of pods are unrelated, although mothers will stay with their offspring for up to eight years. Dolphins tend to be born tail first, and are able to swim and breathe within minutes of birth. Adult males are not usually seen around females unless they are breeding, they form 'bachelor pods' of two or three, forming bonds that may last a lifetime. 

Whales

Whales are mammals, not fish. They breathe air through their 'blowholes' on top of their head, just like humans do through their nostrils. Yorke Peninsula's whale visitors are mostly Southern Right Whales, but Humpbacks, Blue Whales and the occasional Sperm Whale can be spotted. Each year between June and October, Southern Right Whales travel from cold Antarctic waters to visit the warmer sheltered waters of South Australia where they breed and raise their young. When calves are born they do not have much blubber to keep warm, so they consume up to 150 litres of their mother's milk every day to build up a layer of blubber quickly. These giant marine creatures eat some of the smallest food on the planet in extremely large quantities. They strain their food from the ocean, catching it in their comb-like teeth called baleen. Southern Right Whales can grow up to 18 metres long.

State and Territory governments are responsible for conservation and protection of whales in coastal waters (out to the 3 nautical mile limit). This includes responding to strandings and entangled whales.

Seals

Australian Fur Seals have large eyes, and a pointed face with small ears that point backwards and a long set of whiskers. Males are larger than females, with a dark mane of coarse hair. They have a set of carnivore teeth, similar to those of a dog. With its streamlined shape and strong flippers, Australian Fur Seals are highly skilled hunters, and can dive up to 200 metres deep to feed on squid, octopus, fish or lobster. Their main predator is the Great White Shark. Despite their appearance they are quite mobile on land, even on tricky rocky terrain. Australian Fur Seals are seen in waters all around the peninsula, but they prefer offshore islands and rocky stretches of coastline where they can haul-out to rest in between feeds, and to breed and raise their young. They are social animals, and are seen in large colonies calling to each other.

 

If you find an animal in distress, please contact the following recognised Fauna Rescue people ...

Phil Copley - Phone: 8853 2440; or Fauna Haven - Christine & Colin - Phone: 8835 2221, or Mobile: 0428 373 109 or 0428 837 310 

If you find a bird in distress please contact Leonie Ware - Phone: 8834 2130.  Leonie is located in Port Victoria, and services the whole Peninsula

If you think a marine mammal is sick or injured, report the matter to the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources on 0427 556 676. Information on reporting incidents can be found here

To report beached or injured seals on the Yorke Peninsula, please contact Innes National Park - Business Hours: (08) 8854 3200; After Hours: Emergency: 0407 794 784

 

 

 

 

Visitor Information Centre

ASK THE LOCAL EXPERTS
Yorke Peninsula Information Centre
29 Main Street Minlaton South Australia
T: 1800 202 445
E: info@visityorkepeninsula.com.au

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29 Main Street Minalton South Australia

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