Ayers Rock Resort
Despite the often harsh climate, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is home to hundreds of different animal and bird species. One of the best things about a visit here is to see some of this wildlife in their natural habitat.
Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park has 21 species of native mammals, 178 species of birds, 73 species of reptiles and literally thousands of invertebrates species including ants, spiders and bugs.
Some of the most commonly known and found are listed below, but for a more comprehensive look at what you could see while you're here, visit the Visitors Centre located near the Town Centre in Ayers Rock Resort.
Miititi - Crimson Chat "You can't miss them"
Bright blazes of red, often on the ground or perched on shrubs - these are usually miititi. When there are plenty of small insects and caterpillars to eat, these birds are prolific and very obvious. But they are nomadic and will move on when conditions are poor.
One of the prettiest sights of the Australian bush are the flocks of grey and pink Piyar-piyarpa wheeling across the blue skies. Piyar-piyarpa are a type of cockatoo and are seed-eaters, able to crack though seed shells with their massive beaks. Out here, their looks and wild boisterous behaviour will captivate you.
Waterholes among the red rocks are the best places to look for these pretty little birds. Firetails are finches and therefore seed eaters that must drink. Small flocks fly down to sip water from the rocky edges of the waterholes. The brilliant fiery upper tail is most visible in flight.
Walawuru- Wedge-tailed Eagle
High above you soars the magnificent walawuru, the wedge-tailed eagle. Look at its tail. You can see how it received its English name. It uses thermals of hot air created by the desert heat to rise to great heights where its keen eyes scan for food.
It kills animals up to the size of small kangaroos by gliding down and striking them about the head with its massive talons. Yet despite their killing ability, walawuru prefer easier meals of carrion.
Aralapalpalpa - Crested Pigeon "Tongue Pump"
Aralapalpalpa are common around the Resort. They feed on grass seeds on the ground and like most seed-eaters, must drink regularly. Unlike most birds that drink by dipping their beaks and sipping, Aralapalpalpa poke out their tongues and pump up the water. Listen for the metallic whistling sound of their flight.
Ngiyari - Thorny Devil
This lizard looks frightening but the spines, though sharp, are harmless. The only thing that need fear them are the several types of ants that form its diet. The thorny devil sits beside an ant trail and snaps up each ant that passes.
The Ngiyari can drink with its feet. It places them in a puddle and water moves up by capillary action along grooves to the corner of its mouth.
Tjakura - Nocturnal Desert Skink "The end of the tail"
Skinks are the most abundant of the lizards at Uluru-Kata Tjuta with about 29 species found here. They have shiny scales and most will drop their tails when attacked. The twitching tail attracts the attacker, allowing the skink, minus tail, to sneak away. The tail later regrows. The Tjakura makes a burrow with an entrance under a shrub or grass clump. Unlike most skinks, it can be active at night.
Kuniya - Woma Python
Kuniya is a large nocturnal snake that can grow 2.7 metres. It lives in burrows on the sand plains and will take over burrows made by more efficient diggers - ones with feet and claws. Imagine tying to dig a burrow with no hands or feet and you'll see why these snakes look for prebuilt homes. Kuniya suffocates its prey of small mammals with its coils before extending its jaw to swallow them. It's not poisonous and not a threat to people.
Ngintaka - Perentie
At two metres long, the Ngintaka (Perentie) is Australia's largest, and the world's second largest lizard - only surpassed by the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia. Adult perenties have few enemies as they can defend themselves with a lashing tail, slashing claws, sharp teeth and a scary hiss! It's a fearsome predator to small animals, seizing them with curved teeth and shaking them or bashing them against objects to kill them. Fortunately they leave people alone.
Liru - Mulga Snake
Liru means poisonous snake in one of the Anangu languages. Liru features prominently in the Tjukurpa creation stories. There are eight different types of Liru at Uluru-Kata Tjuta. Most are small and mildly venomous. But beware of the largest Liru, the Mulga or King Brown Snake. It is very dangerous. If it bites it hangs on, injecting large amounts of toxic venom. Mulga snakes have their place in nature, eating other snakes, rodents and lizards. They hunt by day and on warm nights.
Tarkawara - Spinifex Hopping Mouse
Tarkawara, or spinifex hopping mice, are one of the animals you're most likely to see if you wander along tracks around the Resort at night. Their long legs, tufted tail and hopping gait are distinctive. Tarkawara are family animals, living in communal burrows. They like the cool damp underground air that helps them preserve valuable moisture. Tarkawara do not drink water but get all the moisture they need from the seeds and plant shoots they eat - strategies that help them survive in a harsh dry environment.
Mala - Rufous Hare Wallaby
The Mala is a small wallaby that lives amongst spinifex, digging trenches or burrows beneath the hummocks to escape the summer heat. Once common, it disappeared from Uluru and Central Australia after European settlement. Changing fire-burning patterns created unsuitable habitat; this, along with introduced predators, probably caused its disappearance. Anangu are keen to reintroduce it once the environment has recovered and introduced predators are controlled.
The Mala is an important part of the Uluru creation stories known as Tjukurpa. You'll hear about the Mala Tjukurpa on the Mala Walk regularly led by rangers in the Park.
Murtja - Mulgara
Although only the size of a small guinea pig, Murtja is one of the top predators of the spinifex country. It searches at night for prey of rats, mice, reptiles and large invertebrates. The young are carried in the mother's rudimentary pouch or ride on her back when they grow older. Imagine being a mother and having to chase after active prey with that heavy load. Murtja spend their days in burrows with lined nesting chambers.
Papa inura - Dingo
The dingo is the largest land predator in Australia. Scientists believe it descends from Asian dogs arriving in Australia about three and a half thousand years ago, possibly on boats of Asian travellers. It became a camp dog for Aborigines and also spread into the wild. Papa inura is a hunter but also scavenges dead animals and even feeds on insects and plants. Papa inura cannot bark but their howls sometimes penetrate still desert nights.
Wayuta Brush-tailed Possum
Many Australia city dwellers know brush-tailed possums. They like to nest in tree hollows or house roofs, but both of these are in short supply at Uluru. Wayuta once lived here in the few large trees, in caves and even in termite mounds, but they have now disappeared. As they are an important Tjukurpa animal, Anangu and Parks Australia hope to reintroduce them.
Malu- Red Kangaroo
The enduring symbol of Australia is the kangaroo. The deserts of Australia have the largest - the Malu - with males two metres long from nose to tail tip. They bound across the open plains. At a top speed of about 60 kilometres an hour a big red male can leap eight metres horizontally and three metres vertically. Hopping is actually an efficient way of travelling. Try it - but for best results you would need the long legs, the balancing tail and the rhythm of a kangaroo. Females are smaller and often a blue-grey colour.
Minga - Ants "Ants, ants everywhere"
While mammals, reptiles and birds may be hard to see, ants are everywhere. They often have well-travelled trails. No one knows exactly how many species live Australia's arid zone but they probably number in the thousands. Like termites, they're an important part of the desert ecosystem. They are a source of food for some animals, such as the Ngiyari (thorny devil) and Tjilkamata (echidna), and they, like termites, aerate and turn over the soil. Some species help to spread seeds.
Flies have a bad name. They can be annoying, spread disease and remind us of horrible sights and smells. But they do have their place. They and their maggot young clean up dead animals and other rotting matter. Flies also provide food for many other animals. And some are even pretty. Look closer next time.
Katydids are often heard but not seen. As they are a good meal for other animals, they employ camouflage to match their favorite food plants. Related to grasshoppers, if discovered they can jump with strong hind legs. Their strong plant-cutting jaws are a last line of defence, at least against spiders and other animals their own size.