Western Gray Kangaroo
[ Macropus fuliginosus ]
||2.5 to 4 feet
||2.5 to 3.5 feet
||5 to 6 feet
male: 121 pounds; female: 66 pounds
||grass, occasionally other plants and shrubs
||grain pellets, lettuce, apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, alfalfa, timothy hay, bananas, peanuts, and bread
||southern Western Australia, southern South Australia, western and central New South Wales, southern Queensland, western Victoria, and Kangaroo Island
||forests and woodlands
Australian Through and Through
Flag bearers for the unusual
On a continent known for its distinctive creatures, kangaroos are probably Australia's most well-known mammal. Their appearance—long feet, an upright stance, big ears, and a two-legged, hopping gait—set them apart from most other animals. The reason for the unique fauna of Australia is the island continent's isolation from other large land masses. Over time, some of the most interesting animals in the world evolved on Australia.
Western gray kangaroos are marsupials. Although these specialized mammals dominate Australian ecosystems, there are almost 300 species of marsupials around the world. Marsupials are named after their most distinguishing feature: the marsupium, a furry flap of skin.
Most baby mammals grow and develop for a long time inside their mother. When they’re born, these mammals are pretty big. But baby marsupials—called joeys—are only the size of a jelly bean when they’re born! So joeys have to spend a lot of time nursing and growing in the pouch until they are big enough to live outside permanently. The sight of a joey poking its head out of its mother's pouch is familiar to most of us.
One of many
Western gray kangaroos are one of more than 60 species of kangaroos and wallabies. Although there are variations, all of these kangaroos and wallabies have the same basic body plan: a long tail, long feet, a slender neck, and big ears. Some weigh only a pound or two. Others, like the red kangaroo, get up to 200 pounds. Wallabies are usually smaller than kangaroos, with shorter legs and arms.
How to hop
Hopping gray kangaroos are a marvel of athleticism. They can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. They rise up onto the toes and balls of both feet and launch themselves forward. When they land, their legs bend so they can propel forward again, like a spring uncoiling its energy. All the while they're hopping along, their tail sticks out behind and balances their body. At low speeds, kangaroos crawl on all fours instead of hopping. When they’re grazing on grass, they move slowly, balancing on their front legs and tail while swinging their back legs forward.
Western gray kangaroos live in groups of between two and 10 individuals, called mobs. Kangaroos come and go from mobs, sometimes several times a day. Males tend to leave mobs more often than females, and they range for many miles.
Western gray kangaroos at Brookfield Zoo
You can see our mob of kangaroos on the north side of Australia House, near Pachyderm House.