Bandicoots are small to medium sized nocturnal omnivorous marsupial mammals with pointy snouts and large hind feet. That is to say that they are active during the night, eat plants and animals, raise their young in a pouch and feeds their babies milk. There are about 20 species of bandicoots in Australia.
The English name "bandicoot" was first used to describe a large rat found in India. It is derived from "pandi kokku" of the Telugu language spoken in parts of southern India. It is not certain how the association got transferred to an Australian marsupial. Today is it is mostly used to describe the Australian animal.
Bandicoots are roughly similar in appearance to rats but have elongated snouts, large feet like kangaroos and hop on their hind legs. And of course they are marsupials.
Bandicoots range in size from 28–81cm and weigh between 0.2–1.6kg. That is roughly rat-size to rabbit-size. Males are larger than females.
Bandicoots come in fur colours that include grey, brown, black and golden; usually with lighter underbellies of white.
Bandicoots are one of the more vocal marsupials. They have at least four distinct sounds.
• When annoyed they make a "whuff, whuff" noise
• 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.
Bandicoots are solitary territorial animals that will actively 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. A male has a larger territorial range than a female who forages closer to her nest. Bandicoots forage in open areas during the night and rest in nests
Bandicoots built their nests on the ground in dense shrub. They line their nests with dry grass and leaves.
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 Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland to Victoria. (Red area on map).
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).
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).
Bandicoots are nocturnal omnivorous marsupials. They mainly active during the night and eat insects, spiders, beetles, earthworms, centipedes, millipedes and insect larvae. They also eat roots, plant tubers and fungi. They drink by lapping water like a cat.
When a bandicoot detects prey underground, it digs a cone-shaped hole using its front paws and reaches its meal with its long snout.
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 under developed 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 an remains in her pouch for another two months.
Young bandicoots become independent at about four months and are sexual mature at about five months.
They live for between 2 to 5 years.
Bandicoots have a number of adaptations that makes 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’s 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 in diet.
Many are also killed by motor vehicles and die as a result of habitat loss, bush fires and even snail bait poisoning.
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.