Nectar loving natives

If you hear stems and leaves dropping onto your roof at night, you may be lucky to have a nectar loving native living in your backyard. This unique nocturnal marsupial is known as a Brushtail Possum.

Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) normally live in open eucalyptus forest. They are common in the Perth Hills due to the number of trees left to provide habitat. Brushtail Possums have also adapted well to the urban environment. They love backyards with trees that have connected tree canopies so they don’t have to venture down to the ground.1 These possums are agile climbers and you may see them hanging from trees by their prehensile tails, which wrap around branches.

img_4796-possum

Photo: Houndstooth Studio.

Brushtail possums mainly eat leaves, flowers, fruits and insects. In the backyard, they have been known to eat fruits like apricots, apples and nectarines, and will also eat roses! 1

They have silver-grey fur, sometimes darker, with pale-grey fur underneath, black markings around the eyes and a thick black tail.2,3 Brushtail possums grow to 35-55cm long with a tail about 25-40cm long and 5-6cm long oval ears.4

brushtail-possum-2

Photo: Kimberley Page.

 Brushtail possums can be very noisy, particularly during the breeding season. They communicate with clicks, grunts, hisses, alarm chatters, guttural coughs, and screeching.2 They are mainly solitary and use their vocalisations, as well as scent-marking, to maintain space between each other. 3

Brushtail possums spend a lot of time sleeping, usually making their dens in tree hollows or nesting boxes, although they are fond of living in people’s roofs. Studies of their behaviour have shown that about 16% of their time is spent feeding, 30% travelling, 44% sleeping or sheltering and 10% grooming.4

common-brushtail-possum_trichosurus-vulpecula

Distribution of the common Brushtail Possum.
Map: Department of Parks and Wildlife.

 

Download the ‘Feeding possums’ information sheet.

 

Sources:

1INSIGHT News – Simon Cherriman

2http://www.possumcentre.com.au/Pages/brushtail.html

3Atlas of Living Australia

4Fauna Profile – Brushtail Possum, Department of Environment and Conservation