The Island is made up of six unique ecosystems – coastal, scrub heath, wetlands, woodland, ocean and the settled areas – each of which has its own special charm and beauty. The variety of natural habitats means Rottnest is an absolute haven for wildlife, with an incredible number of animals, Birds and sea creatures calling the Island home. Here are just a few of the many wildlife encounters you can look forward to on your next trip to Rottnest!
Rottnest’s coastal habitat is made up of the sandy beaches, sand dunes and limestone cliffs. The cliffs are distinct in their structure and are made from seashell particles and mainly quartz sand which were blown into sand dunes. These dunes then solidified, and the original overlapping curved layers of the dunes can be clearly seen today in the solid limestone. This habitat is home to a variety of Birds including Wedge-tailed shearwaters, Cormorants, Terns and the impressive Osprey, as well as reptiles like the King’s skink.
More than half of the Island is covered by scrub heath. Heath is the main form of vegetation on Rottnest and provides the key habitat for Rottnest’s reptiles and Birds. The main plants which form the heath are the Prickle lily and the Feather speargrass. Part of the reason for the Prickle lily’s success is that Quokkas rarely eat it. In these areas you will find a variety of Birds including the Welcome swallows, Nankeen kestrels and Rock parrots, as well as reptiles like the King skink and Rottnest Island bobtails.
Rottnest’s wetland system is made up of salt lakes, brackish swamps, and small freshwater holes or wet spots called seeps. The wetlands are fed by rainfall and groundwater coming to the surface from the underground aquifer. Rottnest has a system of 12 salt lakes, which cover 10 percent of the Island. This ecosystem is home to many amphibians including Moaning frogs, Motorbike frogs and the oh-so-adorably-named Squelching froglets. The wetlands are a bird watchers’ paradise, with many birds including Welcome swallows, Australian shelducks, Red-necked stints, Bridled and crested terns, Australian pelicans and 1 percent of the world’s population of Banded stilts residing here.
The woodland habitat is home to 43 species of bush Birds and is made up of two types of native trees, the Rottnest Island Pine and the Rottnest Island tea tree. You’ll find rare and beautiful birds here including Rainbow Bee-eaters, Red-capped Robins, Silvereyes and Western whistlers. If you’re staying overnight and are making your way through the woodland after dark, keep your eyes peeled for White striped free-tailed bats as these nocturnal creatures also call the woodlands home.
The Rottnest Island Marine Reserve is made up of four ocean habitats: sandy floors, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, and rocky shores. The Island has a tropical influence with records of 135 species of tropical Fish! A major factor influencing this diversity is the position of the Island in the path of the warm Leeuwin Current, which often brings tropical visitors like the Green turtle to Rottnest. The Marine Reserve is home to 20 species of coral and more than 400 species of Fish including the Western Australian dhufish, Baldchin groper, Harlequin fish, Samson fish, Butterfly fish, Moon wrasse, Blue devil and migratory Fish such as Marlin and Tuna. You’ll also find crustaceans including the Blue manna crab and the famous Western rock lobster. The Island is also a popular area for migrating Humpback whales, Bottle-nose Dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and Australian sea lions, all of which can be best spotted from the Cathedral Rocks viewing platform.
The settlement areas include Thomson Bay Settlement (or the Settlement) – the main hub of the Island and other parts the Island that are man-made. Whilst walking around Thomson Bay to get your bike, enjoy a bite to eat or stock up on supplies, you’re bound to see Rottnest Island’s most famous resident, the Quokka. The Quokka is the only mammal which is native to Rottnest Island and can be found almost everywhere on the Island. The Quokka bounds and hops along the ground although it can climb trees if it needs to. It will sit on its hind legs to look around and will also use its front paws to search for and pick up food! As you walk around the settlement areas, you might also spot Bob tailed lizards, Peafowl and seaside favourites, Silver gulls.