Maria Island has been described as Tasmania’s Noah’s Ark and not surprisingly.
The island has always been home a variety of rare and unusual birds and animals and when a number of threatened species were released in the 1970s it became known as Tasmania’s Noah’s Ark.
Maria is now an island sanctuary and one of the best places in Australia to observe wombats, Tasmanian devils, Cape Barren geese and kangaroos and wallabies. The bird life is also an attraction with 125 species including all of Tasmania’s endemics including the endangered Forty-spotted pardalote and Swift parrot.
The exceptional wildlife is complemented by great interpretation by your expert guides.
Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii
Found only in Tasmania they are the world’s largest marsupial carnivore. In 2013 a group of 28 healthy devils were released on to the island as an ‘island insurance” breeding program safeguard from the facial tumour disease currently affecting 90% of the population. It has been such a success that devils are now being removed for reintroduction to disease free areas in Tasmania. Its closest relative is the kangaroo and its spine-chilling screeches and reputed bad-temper led the early European settlers to call it The Devil. However apart from stealing guests’ unguarded walking boots at night, they are a generally shy around people.
Wombats, Vombatus ursinus
Maria Island is one of the hotspots in Australia to view the Common wombat. Growing to 20-30kg the wombat is the world’s largest burrowing mammal. It is a marsupial and the mother’s pouch faces backward to protect the baby from flying dirt as she digs her burrow. The wombat’s closest relative is in fact the koala. With its short tail and legs, characteristic waddle and ‘cuddly’ appearance the wombat is one of Australia’s most endearing native animals.
Forester (Eastern grey) kangaroo, Macropus giganteus
Standing over 2m tall and weighing over 60kg these superb kangaroos are the second largest kangaroo in Australia. They were introduced to Maria in the 1970s and are easy to spot on the airstrip and pastures at Darlington where one can see baby “joeys” climbing in and out of their mothers pouches as they graze. Forester kangaroos live gregariously in groups of up to 10 and females form close kinship bonds with their female relatives.
Wallabies: Tasmanian pademelon, Thylogale billardierii and Bennetts wallaby, Macropus rufogriseus
Maria is home to two species of wallabies which are now found in abundance on the island. The small, stocky Tasmanian Pademelon lives in thick forest undergrowth by day and ventures out into clearings in the evening. They are now only found only in Tasmania and their unusual name is of Aboriginal derivation. They are browsers and often seen eating our heritage lavender at Bernacchi House.
The Bennett’s Wallaby which is found throughout in Tasmania and southeast Australia was introduced in the 1970s. Standing around 1metre tall and 15kg they are larger than the Pademelon and can be distinguished by their black nose and paws and a white strip on their lip. Babies called joeys live in the mother’s pouch for 9 months.
Cape Barren goose, Cereopsis novaehollandiae
These majestic birds were once the second rarest goose in the world. Their traditional stronghold is the islands of Bass Strait but they are found all the way to Western Australia. Large and regal goose honks like a pig, rarely goes in the water and is absolutely gracefully in flight. They are vigorous grass eaters and have become synonymous with Maria Island since being introduced in the 1970s.
Wedge-tailed eagle, Aquila audax
One of the largest eagles in the world with wingspan of 2.3m these impressive birds nest and live on Maria Island and are often seen soaring in pairs around the island’s peaks. After 10,000 years of isolation the Tasmanian wedge-tailed Eagles have developed into a larger and separate subspecies to their mainland Australia relatives. They are endangered with only 200 pairs breeding in Tasmania.
White-bellied sea eagle, Haliaeetus leucogaster
The second largest bird of prey found in Australia and a wingspan of 2m these beautiful big birds are not true eagles but large members of the kite family. They are frequently seen roosting in their favourite gum tree overlooking Mercury Passage or silently soaring over the beaches and cliff edges on Maria. They feed mainly on fish but will attack land mammals and birds as big as a swan. They are expert hunters and can spy prey on the water from up to 1km away! Maria Island is home to a number of breeding pairs.
Tasmanian native hen, Tribonyx mortierii
Made extinct by dingos and increasing aridity on mainland Australia 4700 years ago these Tasmanian endemics are entertaining to watch and full of character. Nick-named “turbo chooks” by the locals these flightless chicken-like birds can run up to 50km/hr and when threatened flick their tail to warn others. They are very social and often join in unison with their rasping “see-saw” call. The word Triabunna where we start our boat trip is derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning native hen. The females often breed with harem of male, a rare practice in the animal kingdom called polyandry.
Pardalotes (Forty-spotted, Spotted and Striated)
Maria Island is home to three species of small, forest dwelling Pardalotes one of which Forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus) is under threat of extinction. With less than 1000 breeding pairs on the planet, Maria Island is the bird’s major remaining stronghold. They are communal birds living in white gums forests (Eucalyptus viminalis) so we see them regularly around our two wilderness camps. The Spotted and Striated pardalotes nest in burrows in sand dunes and embankments and forage in the eucalypt forests.
There are number of beautiful parrots on Maria including the critically endangered Swift parrot which migrates to Tasmania each summer and nests and feeds on the island’s flowering Blue Gums. The other parrots include Yellow-tailed black cockatoo and Green rosella.
Waders and ocean birds
The island is great place to see Hooded plovers, Oystercatchers, Shy albatross, Pelicans and migrating Muttonbirds.
Maria is home to eight beautiful Honeyeaters of which four are uniquely Tasmanian.
Other commonly sighted birds
Bring your binoculars when you join us, because the bird life is fabulous on the island and a number of species you wont see anywhere else.
Dolphins, Whales and Seals
The boat trip to Maria is a fantastic opportunity to see some of our marine life. Dolphins (common and bottlenose) are frequently sighted in the Mercury Passage. Whales (humpbacks and southern right whales) migrate past Maria when heading north in May/June and again as they head south Oct/Nov. Australian fur seals are frequently seen and there is a significant colony of seals on a nearby island that in 1802 the French Baudin expedition named Ile des Phoques (Island of the Seals).