In south-eastern Australia (Melbourne, Sydney) travellers are most likely to see two different types of wallaby: Swamp Wallaby & Red-necked Wallaby.

Here’s a summary of the differences between these two similar macropod* species, based on appearance, style (behaviour), location and habitat.

how to identify swamp wallaby from red-necked

Size

Large males of both species of wallaby stand to about waist height on an average adult human.

Swamp Wallaby:  Weight: males to 21kg, females to 15kg

Red-necked Wallaby:  Weight: males to 27kg, females to 16kg

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Colour

This is where they really differ.

Swamp Wallaby
Single defining feature that sets Swamp Wallaby apart from Red-necked Wallaby:

inner ear is always dark. Ear fluff can be ginger.

Wallaby species in Eastern Australia: Swamp Wallaby

Overall dark slate grey and chocolate brown, with rufous (reddish) tints on the belly, ears and crown. Dark legs & hands. Tail black, sometimes with a white tip. They have a white jaw stripe but no pronounced leg stripe.

male Wallabia bicolor features

Red-necked Wallaby
Single defining feature that sets Red-necked Wallaby apart from Swamp Wallaby:

inner ear is always pale grey or flesh-colour. Ear fluff is white.

comparing faces of red-necked and swamp wallaby

Overall light grey and reddish-brown, with a silver grey tail and lower legs, but dark hands. They have a strong white stripe along their jaw, and sometimes a hint of a leg stripe across their thigh.

Red-necked vs swamp wallaby

Red-necked Wallaby faces are very distinctive – they have a very dark nose and muzzle that goes right up to between their eyes. This feature sets them apart from Eastern Grey Kangaroos which are often nearby.  Read about all the kangaroos and wallabies we see on tours here. 

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Habitat

You can see a Red-necked Wallaby in a habitat you expect a Swamp Wallaby, and vice versa, but there are some trends in habitat choice.

Swamp Wallaby: Though generally associated with thick, dense forest in gullies they can also be seen right throughout Victoria in very open woodland, like the You Yangs. They are generalist feeders (see below) and seem to have adapted to a wide range of habitat types.

differences between red-necked and swamp wallaby

Red-necked Wallaby: They overlap a bit with Swamp Wallabies, though Red-necked Wallabies prefer the ecotone – the border area – between forest and open grassland. They are best seen on the edges of farmland next to a National Park in the morning and evening.

difference between red-necked and swamp wallaby

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Behaviour around humans:

All truly wild macropods* are nervous of humans, as a general rule. However there are some big differences in behaviour between Swamp Wallabies and Red-necked Wallabies.

difference between wallabia bicolor and notamacropus rufogriseus

Swamp Wallaby: They can be either extremely nervous, or quite placid at times. In the same park, on the same day, some individuals will calmly feed and groom in close proximity to humans without expressing any concern, while others will flee wildly at the slightest approach. We quite often come upon a Swamp Wallaby at close range, in dense bush, when they have not heard or sensed us approaching. We have had some exciting moments!

wild Wallabia bicolor with children

Red-necked Wallaby: We rarely get as close to Red-necked Wallabies as we do to Swamp Wallabies. Red-necks seem warier than Swamp Wallabies, but we encounter them in quite different environments in East Gippsland. We usually see Red-necked Wallabies in open grassland, where they have plenty of time to hop away if they choose.

how to tell red-necked from swamp wallaby

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Where do they live?

Both wallaby species live in the forests around Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Swamp Wallaby: All along mainland Australia’s east coast, from the eastern edge of South Australia, through Victoria and NSW, to the northern-most tip of Queensland. Unlike the Red-necked Wallaby, they do not occur in Tasmania.

difference between red-necked and swamp wallaby hopping style

Red-necked Wallaby: South-eastern mainland Australia and Tasmania. Like the Swamp Wallaby they occur in small numbers on the eastern edge of South Australia, through Victoria and NSW, but they differ in Queensland – Red-necked Wallabies only occur in south-eastern Qld.

See their range maps here.

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What do they eat?

Swamp Wallaby: grasses, herbs, ferns, fungi (including underground fungi) and leaves of shrubs. We have also seen them eating the exuded sap from wattles (Acacia sp, especially Golden Wattle).

identifying swamp from red-necked wallaby: eating habits

Red-necked Wallaby: they mostly eat grass, but also some herbs, young shoots and leaves of shrubs.

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Why are wallabies special? Wallabies are like adorable mini-kangaroos, and their joeys are just divine. Some of our most exciting moments on tour are contributed by a wallaby – the one that jumps out from behind a tree, leaving your heart racing; the one that refused to move off the track even as you walked closer and closer; the one that jumped straight up a vertical rock face with a joey in her pouch!

Best tours to see Swamp & Red-necked Wallabies: 4 day Wildlife Journey in East Gippsland or 7 day Coast & Rainforest option of our Maximum Wildlife tour.

NOTES:

*macropod: a general term for any of the kangaroos and wallabies. Technically, any animal in the family Macropodidae (kangaroos, wallabies, rock-wallabies, hare-wallabies, quokka) or the sub-order Macropodiformes (which also includes potoroos, bettongs & Musky Rat-kangaroo)

Red-necked Wallabies also live in Tasmania, where they are called Bennett’s Wallaby. Swamp Wallabies don’t live in Tasmania, but other types of wallabies do – if you’d like to see them we recommend  Premier Travel Tasmania and the Maria Island Walk.

For more information about Swamp Wallabies & Red-necked Wallabies go to this excellent site: http://www.rootourism.com/fsheet67.htm

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