Warks Road Antechinus

To: "Alastair Smith" <>, "'Philip Veerman'" <>
Subject: Warks Road Antechinus
From: Bron King <>
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2007 18:57:00 +1100

A. agilis and A. swainsonii (Dusky) are both common in the Brindabellas.  They are both possibly more common at Warks Road than anywhere else in the ACT.  The junction of Warks Road and Blundells Creek Road is the type locality for A.agilis, which was described in 1998.

A. flavipes (Yellow-footed) is a woodland specialist and has never been trapped in that part of the ACT (it used to be reasonably easy to find on Black Mountain a few decades ago, but no longer).

A. agilis is the most arboreal of all antechinuses.  It lives in tree-holes and hunts in trees and on the ground.  A.swainsonii adults are strictly terrestrial, nesting and hunting in areas of friable soil.  Young swainsonii (less than 6 months old) occasionally hunt on fallen trees and in lower branches of coppiced trees.
Both species breed in winter, with the young dispersing over summer to coincide with food abundance.  80+% of antechinuses on the ground at the moment would be current-year juveniles. 

Both species are occasionally seen in early morning or late afternoon daylight hours, especially juveniles (which no doubt accounts in part for the high mortality of dispersing juveniles).  Both species may be abroad around the clock during the winter breeding season.

From the point of view of climbing behaviour your antechinus could be either a juvenile A. swainsonii or an A. agilis.  At this time of year, most juvenile A. agilis are about House Mouse size, so you can rule them out.  A juvenile A. swainsonii would be roughly the same size as an adult female A. agilis.  Bear in mind that the only adult antechinuses in the population in summer are females (the males all having died in August following mating), so the possible size range is less than you quote (head and body for female A.agilis is 75-95mm).  Brindabella antechinuses are smaller than coastal animals - closer to the median of 90mm in the case of A. agilis.  If, in the unlikely event it is an adult female A.swainsonii, it is unlikely to be larger than 116mm.

I think it is more likely to be A. agilis.  The 2-metre burnt stump you describe is a typical nest-site for agilis.  Even an adult would risk a short daylight excursion from its nest if it detected a small skink or other high-value prey in the vicinity.  Climbing down head-first, antechinuses flatten themselves against the trunk with their hind-feet turned backwards and widely spaced.  This gives the impression of a larger animal than they appear on the ground.

Although antechinuses are the most numerous of marsupials, they are so cryptic that very few people will ever see one.  To spot one at Warks Road, in daylight, is a privileged experience.

Daryl King

At 08:19 PM 19/02/2007, Alastair Smith wrote:
I omitted the fact that it appeared to be a similar size (as well as colour) to the White-browed Treecreeper (160-175mm) would indicate that it was a largish species of antechinus (my initial reaction was that is was another white-brow climbing down the stump). As such, this which would probably rule out Agile (80-116mm) and point to yellow-footed (90-160mm) or dusky (90-185mm). I presume both species a re found in the ACT but interesting I cannot find a list of mammal species for the ACT (nor birds/retiles for that matter) under the Environment ACT website.
Many thanks to all those who have replied on and offline ? we?ll nail this identification yet.

From: Philip Veerman
Sent: Monday, 19 February 2007 6:16 PM
To: Alastair Smith
Subject: [canberrabirds] Warks Road Antechinus
I don't think that colour is enough of a guide. They are all pretty much brownish. The size and shape are the issues. Most of the people who identify these critters have them in hand whilst doing so. Although just looking at a reference book now, suggests that size range within species is much greater than between species. Although a lot of that is sexual dimorphism, so if you don't know what sex it is, it is pretty hard to know what size it should be. They are all mostly nocturnal but of course during the breeding season, these critters go beserck and can be seen occasionally during the daytime.
I once observed (and caught) a Pygmy Possum at Warks Road (about 22 years ago), I have a photo of myself holding it.
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