Q: Of all the unique animals you encountered in the Australian outback (wilderness) what is your favorite? Is it endangered?
A: Tough question. I enjoyed so many. Favorites include duck-billed platypus, short-beaked echidna, common wombat, red kangaroo, honey-possum, and Tasmanian devil. That doesn't even count birds such as the superb fairy-wren and the rainbow lorikeet and reptiles such as the frilled lizard and the perentie. The list could go on and on. The most endangered of all these creatures is the Tasmanian devil, which is not devilish at all and something like a marsupial badger. In the last fifteen years, devils have been pushed to the brink of extinction by a recently discovered facial tumor disease.
Q: What Aussie or Kiwi (New Zealand) bird is at the top of the bird food chain, like eagles in the Adirondacks?
A: During the Ice Age, New Zealand had a giant bird of prey, known as Haast's eagle, which preyed on flightless birds called moa. Some of the moa stood as tall as horses. Haast's eagle was the world's largest, and the birds it fed on may have been the world's largest, too. All are extinct. Today in New Zealand, swamp harriers and New Zealand falcons are the chief predators among day-active birds. Australia, a far bigger landmass with diversity to match, supports a wide array of birds of prey—24 diurnal raptors and 9 owls. The largest is the majestic wedge-tailed eagle. The most fierce is probably the peregrine falcon, which also hunts in the Adirondacks.