Animals of the Sanctuary

A wide range of animals, birds, insects, fish and reptiles can be found at Blackburn Lake Sanctuary.


Blackburn Lake Sanctuary is regarded as one of the most important bird refuges within metropolitan Melbourne.
During the 1960s approximately 180 different species of birds were recorded and documented by the Bird Observers Club in their publication “Birds of Blackburn Lake.”.

Increasing pressures such as loss of habitat, food supplies and bird corridors linking bushland parks, the use of insecticides, impact of roaming cats, dogs not on leashes, foxes, polluted water and, of course, the human element has resulted in a steady decline in the numbers and variety of birds.

In 1981, 104 different species of birds, some resident, some casual and some migratory, were recorded.

In the late 1990’s a list was compiled by Geoff Deason a member of the Bird Observers Club. It would appear that approximately 80 species is about the number which can be expected over a 12 month period depending on seasonal changes and other factors.

Local school students and adult groups have carried out Bird Surveys at different times of the year. During a period of 1.5 – 2 hours an average of 35 species and a total of 154 – 235 birds, including feral and introduced species, was recorded.

The most common birds are:

  • Australian Magpie
  • Noisy Miner
  • Red Wattlebird
  • Pacific Black Duck
  • Musk Lorikeet
  • Rainbow Lorikeet
  • Welcome Swallow
  • Bell Miner
  • Superb Fairy
  • Wren
  • Brown Thornbill
  • Little Raven
  • White-plumed Honeyeater

There is usually a family of Tawny Frogmouths and a Powerful Owl has been a regular hunter. Several Pelicans and a lone Black Swan are occasional visitors.

Possums and Sugar Gliders

Several species of animals can be seen in the Sanctuary. Quite often one can see a “drey”, a large mass of leaves and twigs in a tree, with a young Ringtail possum looking out. There are also Brushtail possums which we hear in our gardens and on our roofs.

Many possums live in the Sanctuary. They move easily from the bushland areas into surrounding houses and in many cases causes significant problems in the gardens. Possums are protected, it is illegal for residents to destroy or move possums. An explanation of this can be found in the leaflet “Information on Living with Possums”, published by the Department of Natural Resources & Environment. The leaflet is available at the Visitors Centre.

Research has been carried out recently on the Eucalyptus in the Sanctuary. It is thought that the possums could be over grazing the Eucalyptus causing severe stress and leading to the death of the tree. Some isolated Eucalyptus have been fitted with collars of perspex to stop the possums reaching the young leaves. Such trees appear to be recovering, but the evidence is not conclusive and fitting of collars to a large number of trees is not practical.

In the past, sugar gliders were released into the Sanctuary as a method of increasing their numbers in suburban areas. Several surveys have found no evidence for the continued existence of sugar gliders. It is thought that there was not enough knowledge of their needs when they were released and that the area does not have enough, continuously flowering shrubs and trees, to maintain a satisfactory food source throughout the year. Cats and other animals would attack any gliders which came down to the ground looking for other food sources so it is unlikely that the Sanctuary would be able to support a colony of sugar gliders in future.

Reptiles and other animals

Often a snake may be sighted, signs are on various paths warning visitors to be on the look out. The best advice is to keep to the tracks. If you do come upon a snake basking on the track, walk back along the path or quietly walk forward well clear of the snake. Usually they will sense people coming and glide away. Snakes are an important part of the food chain and keep rats and mice under control. Snakes, like all animals in the Sanctuary, are protected.

Occasionally an Echidna, a Blue-tongued Lizard or a Shingle-backed Lizard can be seen. Stuffed examples of all these species can be seen in the Visitor Centre as well as preserved skins of local snakes.

Long-necked Tortoises are often seen with their head poking out of the water or seen sunning themselves on the edge of the lake on a rock or a log.


There are many different types of insects, most of which have not been documented. There have been some studies looking at the changes in insect life following the fires. But these studies are not comprehensive. All insects, particularly the ants, play an important role in the overall ecology of the sanctuary. They pollinate plants, chomp though dead wood and return the nutrients to the soil, remove the dung of animals which live in the Sanctuary and generally tidy up the place. They are an important part of the food chain for birds and bats.`


Fishing is not permitted at Blackburn Lake Sanctuary under Land for Wildlife status and City of Whitehorse Local Laws.

In former times, fishing damaged the lakeside vegetation, and lines and lures hooked or entangled water birds. Recreational fishing is permitted locally at Ringwood Lake and Lilydale Lake. There are carp living in the lake. Carp are an introduced species which have affected the ecosystems of many of our waterways. Carp contribute greatly to the turbidity of the lake water as they are “bottom-feeders”, rifling through the muddy lake floor uprooting water plants and decreasing light and oxygen levels. The City of Whitehorse began a program in 1999 to improve the water quality. This involved surveys to assess the population and distribution of carp and other species in preparation for the removal of the carp.

Mosquito fish are also prevalent in the Lake. These are the small (4 to 6cm) grey/spotted black fish seen in the Lake. They are also an introduced species (from USA) spread around the world for mosquito control. Unfortunately the voracious meat eaters eat anything – tadpoles, good bugs and insects too, making them a major threat to our native species.