Bandicoot What is a Bandicoot?

Bandicoots are small nocturnal, omnivorous, marsupial mammals. They have long pointy snouts, humped bodies, with short front limbs and necks, large hind feet and thin non-prehensile tails. There are about 20 species of bandicoots in Australia.

The three main types of bandicoots in Australia are:

•Long-nosed Bandicoot
•Northern Brown Bandicoot
•Southern Brown Bandicoot

The English name "bandicoot" is derived from the Indian name "pandi kokku" (pig-rat). It is not certain how the association got transferred to an Australian marsupial, but they do look somewhat similar in appearance. The first known use of the word to describe the Australian marsupial was by the explorer George Bass in 1799.

Scientific name: Peramelemorphia

10 Bandicoot Facts

  1. The Bandicoot is somewhat similar in appearance to a rat.
  2. But it is not a rodent. It is a marsupial.
  3. The name bandicoot is derived from an Indian name for a rat - 'pandi kokku'.
  4. The male can be up-to twice as large as the female.
  5. Bandicoots are one of the more vocal marsupials. They whuff, shriek and grunt.
  6. It moves using a slow bunny hop.
  7. Even though it is very small, it can leap up to 2m in the air when frightened.
  8. Its pouch faces backwards, to prevent dirt from entering it while digging.
  9. Bandicoots are opportunistic omnivores feeders.
  10. They drink by lapping water like a cat.

Bandicoot - Description & Characteristics General Description of Bandicoots


Photo: Bandicoot posing

Appearance, Size & Weight

Bandicoots are roughly similar in appearance to rats but have elongated snouts with forelegs that are shorter than their hind legs, and have elongated feet like kangaroos. They range in size from 28–81cm and weigh between 0.2–1.6kg. That is a range of roughly rat-size to rabbit-size. Males are much larger than females. Their fur colours include grey, brown, black and golden; usually with lighter underbellies of white. Their fur bristles are short and relatively stiff.

Teeth, Mouth & Sounds

Most bandicoots species have long pointed snouts. They have small, sharp, relatively even-sized teeth suited to an insectivorous diet.

Bandicoots are one of the more vocal marsupials. They have at least four distinct sounds.

• When annoyed they make a "whuff, whuff" sound.
• When frightened or in pain they will let out a loud shriek.
• They use a high pitched sound to locate each other.
• A snuffing sound is made when looking for food. Followed by a grunting sound when food is found.

Movement & Locomotion

While the Bandicoot, with its large rear feet, may seem like a hopping marsupial, it actually moves using a slow bunny hop, with the front and back legs working alternately. When moving fast, they bound and gallop. They can also jump vertically to heights of nearly 2 m when chased or alarmed. The only time a bandicoot hops on its two hind legs, with its body held near-vertical, is when it is posturing in a conflict situation.

Are Bandicoots Rodents?

No! Bandicoots are marsupial mammals. They carry their young in a pouch and have sharp, small relatively even-sized teeth. They also have slender and pointed canine teeth.

Rodents, on the other hand, are placental mammals, carrying their young inside their bodies, and are distinguished by having constantly growing incisor teeth and a marked absence of canine teeth.

Unique Adaptations

Bandicoots have several adaptations that make them suitable for the harsh and arid Australian environment.

• Nocturnal Behaviour - Keeps them out of the hot Australian sun.

• Rear-facing Pouch Opening - Prevents dirt from entering the female‚Äôs pouch when she is digging.

• Strong Digging Claws - For digging out underground prey.

• Long Pointy Nose - To sniff out its prey.

• Long Pointed Teeth - Allows it to grab and chomp through its food.

Types of Bandicoot

Long-nosed Bandicoot

Photo: Long-nosed Bandicoot

Photo: Long-nosed Bandicoot distribution

The Long-nosed bandicoot has bristly and rough grey-brown fur, a pointy nose and pointy ears. It has a hunched posture, a short tail and its front feet have three long-nailed toes each. About the size of a rabbit, this marsupial is between 31-43cm in length and weighs up to 1.5kg.

The long-nosed bandicoot lives in rainforests, gullies and grassy woodlands along the eastern coast of Australia from the Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland to Victoria. (Red area on map).

Northern Brown Bandicoot

Photo: Northern Brown Bandicoot

Photo: Northern Brown Bandicoot Distribution

The northern brown bandicoot has thick rough speckled brown-black fur, a pointy nose, and small rounded ears. It is between 30-47cm in length and weighs up to 2.0kg.

The northern brown bandicoot is found in the northern parts of Australia and down the eastern coast to central New South Wales. (Purple area on map).

Southern Brown Bandicoot

Photo: Southern Brown Bandicoot

Photo: Southern Brown Bandicoot Distribution

The southern brown bandicoot has dark grey yellowish-brown fur, a long conical nose, and small rounded ears. It has a hunched posture, a short tail and its front feet have three long-nailed toes each. About the size of a rabbit, this marsupial is between 28-36cm in length and weighs up to 1.5kg.

The southern brown is only found small pockets in Victoria and South Australia. (Green area on map).

Bandicoot - Habitat Where Do Bandicoots Live?

Bandicoots are solitary, territorial animals. The home range of a female is around 1-4 ha, and 18-40 ha for a male. They mark their territory with scent from a gland behind their ears and will aggressively defend their territories. They do this by standing on their hind legs and ferociously clawing at each other's shoulders and backs until one withdraws defeated. Bandicoots forage in open areas during the night and rest in nests during the day.

Bandicoots built their nests on the ground in dense shrub. They line their nests with dry grass and leaf litter. They can also use abandoned burrows, tunnels and logs.

Bandicoot - Diet What does a Bandicoot Eat?

Photo: Bandicoot foraging for food

Photo: Bandicoot foraging hole

Bandicoots are omnivores opportunistic feeders that eat whatever food is available to them. They forage at night using their sensitive noses to sniff out food. When bandicoots detect food underground, they dig a cone-shaped hole with their strong flattened fore-claws and reach their meal with their long snouts. They hold their food in their front paws while eating.

Bandicoots eat insects, spiders, beetles, earthworms, centipedes, millipedes, and insect larvae. They also eat roots, seeds, fallen fruit, plant tubers, and fungi. They drink by lapping water like a cat. Some desert species require very little water and get all the moisture they require from their food.

Bandicoot - Reproduction & Life Cycle Baby Bandicoots

Bandicoots are solitary animals. They only gather together for mating. A female is capable of having a new litter every 7 to 8 weeks but usually has 2 to 3 litters a year.

Bandicoots have the shortest gestation period of any marsupial, lasting just 12 days. Females can give birth to as many as five babies. The young are born tiny and underdeveloped and travel through a cord attached to the mother's womb to reach her pouch. Once in her pouch, each attaches itself to a teat and remains in her backwards-facing pouch for another two months.

Young bandicoots become independent at about four months and are sexually mature at about five months.

Bandicoots live for between 2 to 5 years.

Bandicoot - Threats and Predators Is the Bandicoot Surviving?

Photo: Bandicoot road sign

Photo: Fox with a killed bandicoot

Bandicoots fall prey from foxes, dingoes, large birds, feral and domestic cats, and dogs. They are also impacted by competition with rabbits for food and nesting areas.

Climate change, bush fires and habitat loss also have a significant impact on their decline.

Many are killed by motor vehicles, and even snail bait poisoning.

Bandicoot - Conservation Status Is the Bandicoot Endangered?

Bandicoots are protected in all states of Australia. Of the 20 species of bandicoots in Australia, 7 are listed as critically endangered or already extinct.