Summer 2002
Marsupial of the Season


The Swamp Wallaby

(Wallabia bicolor)


Julia Whittington

Please click on thumbnails to enlarge

Family: Macropodidae

Subspecies: Four Subspecies, each found in Queensland – W. bicolor mastersii in the south, and W. bicolor apicalis (Gunther) in the north, around the Cairns area.     W. bicolor ingrami       W. bicolor welssbyi

Habitat and Distribution: The Swamp Wallaby and its’ subspecies inhabit the east coastal region of Australia, from the northern most tip of Queensland, down through New South Wales and Victoria, through to the south-eastern borders of South Australia.  Its preferred habitat is that of damp, densely vegetated gullies, and swamp areas, hence the name Swamp Wallaby.

W. bicolor mastersii -  is found in around Cairns in North Central Queensland.

W. bicolor apicalis - is probably confined to Cape York, North Queensland.

W. bicolor ingrami  - covers the larger part of Queensland from the border with New South Wales north to overlap with W.bicolor mastersii.

W. bicolor welssbyi - confined to Stradbroke Island off the Queensland coast.

Wallabia bicolor bicolor - is found in the Southern areas of its’ range from the South Eastern South Australian border through Victoria, New South Wales and just over the border into Southern Queensland.

Status in the wild:  Common within its range

Description:  The Swamp Wallaby is set apart from the other Wallabies by its very dark colour. – dark brown to black above, and reddish-brown to yellowish-brown below.   The fur is long and shaggy.  The face has a light yellow, red-brown or black stripe across the cheeks, going to the shoulders.  The paws and feet are dark brown.

W. bicolor mastersii is generally smaller than the southern Swamp Wallabies, and has shorter, grey fur.   

W. bicolor apicalis (Gunther) is more typical of the southern race of Swamp Wallabies, but may also have a white tip on the end of the tail.    

W. bicolor ingrami 

W. bicolor welssbyi

The Swamp Wallaby have typical macropod hind legs.  The second and third digits are fused together and have a double claw (known as syndactylus), which are used for grooming.    The fourth digit is noticeably longer that the others and they have no first digit.

Swamp Wallabies have a head and body length of 69 to 75cm, with the tail being of a similar size.  They can weigh up to 13kgs (females) and to 17kgs (males).


Swamp Wallabies become sexually mature at the age of 15 to 18 months, and have a lifespan of about 15 years.  Mating takes place at any time of the year, with no defined season.   Females produce a single young, with the birth taking place approximately 7 days after mating.  The young embryo (known as a quiescent blastocyst) stays dormant until the pouch is vacated by any other young that the mother may have already. This process is called embryonic diapause. In the case of the Swamp Wallaby, the mating which results in a quiescent blastocyst, takes place up to 8 days before the birth of an established fœtus.

Pregnancy usually lasts between 33 to 38 days, after which the young will firmly attached to one of four teats in the mother’s pouch.  Young Swamp Wallabies will remain in the pouch for about 36 weeks, but will continue to suckle until the age of 15 months.

Diet:  The Swamp Wallaby has a varied diet, consisting of leaves from shrubs and vines, young seedling, grasses, ferns, fungi and reeds.    In captivity, a green vegetarian diet of similar foods as sustains other wallaby and kangaroo species should keep them in good health.    They will also take proprietary pelletised marsupial foods.

General ecology:  Swamp Wallabies are active both day and night.  During the day, they rest in dense under-storey and sheltered areas, remaining there until dusk.  During the evening and night, they move out into open grassland to graze.

They are generally solitary animals, but sometimes feed in small groups of up to three individuals.  Their home ranges extend up to 6 hectares.

When moving slowly, Swamp Wallabies do not appear to be well co-coordinated.  However, when moving fast they hold their heads low and tail horizontal, and take long, bounding leaps.


Strahan.,Ronald. ‘The Mammals of Australia’, New Holland Publishers, 1998.

Neville W Cayley’s ‘What Mammal Is That’?

Illustrations by Neville Cayley, Text by Ronald Strahan.  Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1987.

Troughton, Ellis.  Troughton’s ‘Furred Animals of Australia’,

Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1973.

Cronin, Leonard.  ‘Key Guide to Australian Mammals’.

National Library of Australia, 1991.

Morecombe, Irene and Michael. ‘Australian Mammals In Colour’

A.H. & A.W. Reed Pty Ltd, 1979.

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