Rakali encounter

This was quite a memorable encounter.

It was the hour before dusk and as I stood quietly beside Muckleford Creek a familiar shape could be discerned moving along the margin between the water and the bank, occasionally pausing. Its identity soon became apparent.

A Rakali, otherwise known as the Water Rat Hydromys chrysogaster, spent the next hour with me as I watched on, fascinated. It was foraging both along the shoreline and in the water, diving numerous times around clumps of Water Ribbons in search of a meal. Feeding on invertebrates such as yabbies and mussels, they will also take small juvenile birds and eggs if the opportunity presents.

Rakali are a reasonably common inhabitant of the Loddon River and its tributaries, also occurring in Cairn Curran Reservoir. They can also apparently be found in bush dams but I’ve never observed one locally in this habitat.

They breed in late winter and spring and produce a litter of one to seven (usually four or five) offspring. Some females may breed multiple times over this period. The denning behaviour of Rakali is little known, but they are known to build a burrow close to water, often under an overhanging bank. This individual disappeared into the same spot on three occasions when it returned from foraging. The last image in this series shows the location of what I suspect is the den.

Rakali are native rodents, one of roughly 60 species recorded across Australia, of which around ten are now extinct. Sadly, many of these unique animals have been lost to the dual depredations of habitat loss and feral pests. Rakali is a survivor … not so species such as the evocatively named White footed Rabbit-rat which once inhabited the woodlands and stream systems of central Victoria.

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Rakali, Muckleford Creek, 28th June 2022

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II

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III

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IV

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V

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VI

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VII

Rakali can often be found by looking out for their ‘feeding tables’, such as a suitable log or rock, where they consume their meals and deposit the remnants. The ‘feeding table’ pictured below lacks the usual crustacean skeletons or mollusc shells … a little baffling.

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Rakali feeding station

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Rakali at den entrance

13 responses to “Rakali encounter

  1. Chris Johnston

    Fantastic Geoff – I have not seen rakali locally – I’ll start looking out! Your photos are so wonderful – love the images of diving amongst the water ribbons.

  2. superb

  3. Wonderful photos of this elusive, but not uncommon, native.

  4. Richard Johnston

    Superb Geoff. Are you sure it wasn’t a square tailed kite?

  5. Sandy McKenzie

    Thanks for great post Geoff. My query is – how to pick a native Ramadi from an introduced one?
    Any hints will be put into my sightings as I always assume introduced!

    • Galena Debney

      I’m wondering the same thing. They look as if they have a fatter tail.

    • Hi Sandy

      The most obvious difference is the white tip to the tail – usually very obvious when Rakali are either swimming or walking. Other distinctive features include the golden-brown underparts, large size (about twice that of introduced rats), partially webbed feet. Cheers, geoff

      • Galena Debney

        Thanks Geoff for giving us details so we have a better chance to make an accurate ID of rakali.

  6. Annmaree Smerdon

    Great to see this creature is still around and in the area.
    Aren’t the colouring, feet and white tipped tail distinctive? I’ve never seen one, so must be more observant when home next.
    Thank you.

  7. Galena Debney

    I’m heading down to Kangaroo Creek at my place to start looking tomorrow. Fantastic to see the photos and learn about them. I’ve heard of bush rats but didn’t know about the water rats. Thank you for providing the information about them and great photos.

  8. I used to see water rats in the Elwood Canal early in the morning, many years ago before the area became popular with tourists.
    Good to know they are in this area.

  9. Jillian Collider

    I haven’t seen one for several years here. But the one I saw was walking along the fence where the house grapes grow. Would he eat grapes?

  10. Great to see the Rakali locally about. I have also spotted more Antechinus about too, even one parading in our front garden daily for everyone inside to watch. This has meant all rat and mouse traps have to swapped for live traps though.

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