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Flora & Fauna of the Ngurrungurrudjba Yellow Water Billabong

Our Yellow Water Cruise offers a wealth of observations, encompassing a diverse array of unique species. To facilitate your recollection of these wonders encountered during the tour, we have provided a comprehensive list below for your reference.

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Estuarine (Saltwater) Crocodile

We call them Ginga! One of Kakadu’s main attractions, and the world's most prehistoric reptile. Crocodile meat is a local delicacy. Smaller crocodiles are the prey for choice being easier to catch of course! Not many want to go up against a tonne worth of reptile. The crocodile intestine however is reserved for elders, filled with croc fat and roasted for a delicious treat.

Magpie Goose

We call these Bamarru! The preservation of the wetlands is vital for the Bamarru to be able to live, breed and thrive in a healthy habitat, with the Eleocharis or an-gululach being an important floodplain grass and food source for their survival. Bamarru is eaten during certain times of the year when they are fat and local families will collect mobok, a pandanus seed, to use as coals to cook the fresh goose on. It adds a great flavour to the meat instead of just using firewood.


We call these fish Namarnkol! The most famous fish of Kakadu, the Barramundi, is a fisherman favourite and staple part of the Kakadu diet; traditionally roasted on white hot coals. Most plentiful as the waters of the wet season start to recede creating boundless feeding grounds for those who know where to look.

Water Buffalo

Anabarru (Water Buffalo) are not native to Kakadu, they were imported in the early 19th Century to feed the Australian settlements. These animals disturb the floodplain land and dirty the water. Cooinda's waters took on a yellow tinge, hence the name, Yellow Water Billabong. Today, despite the Buffalo’s feral animal status, they are accepted and embedded into the Aboriginal culture, and have shown to benefit the local environment by consuming Hymenachne, a flood plain grass that although native chokes up the waterways of Kakadu. Furthermore, it reduces the fire intensity later in the year, as observed by the traditional owners and locals living on the land.

File Snake

Nawarndak, the file snake, is an aquatic snake that can grow up to 2.5 metres in length and survives on a monthly snack of fish found in the Kakadu waterways. Considered a delicacy highly prized for its rich fat and eggs, Nawarndak is cooked over hot coals. Not an easy catch, they're generally collected when the water levels are low as they congregate around the banks and tree trunks along the water's edge to escape the heat of the day. However hunters need to be super cautious not to become someone else's dinner due to the high population of saltwater crocodiles cruising around the river systems in Kakadu.

Pandanus Aquaticus

An-yakngarra (Pandanus) grow in Kakadu's swamps, billabongs, floodplains and open forest woodlands. Their stems can hold many litres of water to sustain the tree through the dry season and when cut open, it's flesh can be eaten for hydration and electrolytes. An-yakngarra leaves are also a core material for local weavings, where the ladies will finely strip each leaf, dye the stands using local berries and flowers then woven to make dilly bags, baskets and jewellery.

Comb-Crested Jacana

Some call this the 'Jesus' bird, as it can in fact walk on water. Their long toes allows them to disperse the weight of their bodies across Andem (Waterlily) leaves and lotus flowers that surface the Yellow Water Billabong. Female comb-crested jacanas abandon their partner after laying eggs, while the male Jacana will incubate its eggs and keep a watchful eye on the chicks. If the father senses a threat, he'll pick the chicks up under his wings and carry them away to safety. 

Water Lily

An-dem (Water Lily) have a singular green leaf upon the water throughout the year shows off a large pink-yellow flower which smells divine. They are the base ingredient for local bush bread, where the root tuber is ground down to create starchy seeds and then used to make small bush cakes. Wrapped in the large green leaf, the cakes are baked underground and eaten with Kakadu plum or Red Bush apple spreads!

Agile Wallaby

Gonorborlo (Agile Wallaby)search for sweet grasses, root bulbs and fruit that has fallen from the trees such as an-duchme (green) an-dak (milky plum) and an-morlak (Kakadu plum).


Djakarna "ja-gah-nah" or commonly referred to as the 'Black-Necked Stork' are quite a large bird species  and are also the only stork found in Australia. With black and white body plumage, iridescent green and purple necks and massive black bill, Jabiru are easily identified in the billabong. Their extremely strong beaks are useful for hunting snakes, frogs, turtles, eels and fish. You can distinguished females by their yellow eye. 

White-Bellied Sea Eagle

With a wingspan reaching up to 2.2 meters (7.2 feet), the Marrawuddi is one the largest raptor in Kakadu.It is known for its keen eyesight, which enables it to spot fish from great heights before swooping down to catch them with its sharp talons. They are highly territorial and typically mate for life. Breeding pairs engage in elaborate aerial displays during courtship, showcasing their agility and strength.

Azure Kingfisher

This shy bird can be observed skimming the surface of creeks and billabongs, hunting for fish before disappearing into the vegetation. Recognisable by its striking deep blue plumage, bright orange breast, and long sharp beak, azure kingfishers are highly sought after by birdwatchers. To catch a glimpse of them, listen for their calls or watch them dive for small fish at Yellow Water Billabong. 


An iconic feral horse in Australia originated from escaped or abandoned domestic horses brought by European settlers to the Australian continent centuries ago. Over time, they have adapted to the harsh conditions of the Australian outback. While their presence adds to the historical significance of the Australian landscape, their population in Kakadu presents challenges for conservation efforts. Brumbies can have detrimental impacts on native flora and fauna, trampling vegetation, causing soil erosion, and competing with native herbivores for resources.

Forrest Kingfisher

Cheeky Yam

Mankinjdjek is cheeky because of its toxins that make it poisonous. Therefore it must be prepared accordingly. The yam should be sliced thinly, placed into a string bag which would then be immersed into a flowing stream of water for overnight or longer. After this it can be cooked and eaten. It makes good tucker, yet cheeky!

Wild Pig

Wild pigs are descendants of domestic pigs introduced to Australia by European settlers and have since established feral populations across Kakadu National Park. They are highly adaptable omnivores, feeding on roots, tubers, fruits and insects. Their rooting behaviour can cause significant damage to vegetation and soil, impacting native plant communities and disrupting ecological processes.

Blue-Winged Kookaburra

Blue-winged kookaburras' loud calls are used to deter rivals, echoing during sunrise and sunset. Males have bright light-blue wings and tails, while females only have blue on their wings. They're easily spotted within the paperbark swamps and wetland fringes. During the cool-season burning from April to June, they hunt insects flushed out by the fires. Interestingly, family of blue-winged kookaburras may occupy the same hollow trunk of a tree for up to 15 years.

Plumed Whistling Ducks

Named for its distinctive whistling call and the sound of its wings in flight, whistling ducks are often heard returning to its roost after sunset. Distinguished by its large size and rich red-brown plumage with a dark stripe on the crown, nape, and back of the neck, this aquatic bird is more water-oriented than its close relative, the plumed whistling duck. Notably, Djirrbiyuk, an Aboriginal outstation in Kakadu National Park, is named after the sacred site for the wandering whistle duck, reflecting its cultural significance. The full name, Djirrbiyuk Kakukdjabdjabdi, translates to 'whistle ducks are standing up everywhere.'


There are five egret species—the great, intermediate, little, cattle, and reef egret— that grace the Yellow Water Billabong with their presence. These birds, characterised by long necks and brilliant white plumage, exhibit varied feeding habits, catching fish by stabbing them with their long bills. They consume aquatic insects, molluscs, small reptiles, crustaceans, and other small animals. During the monsoon season (December–March), known as kudjewk, egrets form large nesting colonies atop mangroves.


Brolgas, the graceful giants of Kakadu's wetlands, fill the air with their distinctive trumpet calls. Thousands of these large grey cranes, standing up to 1.25 meters tall, can be observed in flight over the floodplains. Witness their elegant dance moves during the mating season for their famous energetic jumping and trumpeting displays, adding a captivating aspect to the wetland landscape.

Whistling Kite

Found across Australia's northern regions, Whistling Kites primarily feed on small mammals, birds and reptiles. With keen eyesight and agile flight, they can spot and capture prey with precision. Breeding season for Whistling Kites typically occurs during the dry season, with pairs constructing large nests made of sticks and branches in tall trees. They may reuse nests from previous years, adding new materials to reinforce the structure. These birds play an important ecological role as scavengers, helping to clean up carrion and regulate populations of small animals. 

Flying Fox

Guluban (also known as fruit bats) are a good bush tucker for local Indigenous, traditionally cooked in a gungede (ground oven). These bats are pollinators and seed dispersers, covering considerable distances across the landscape with their large wingspans and keen sense of smell. Flying foxes are primarily nocturnal, emerging at dusk to forage while roosting in colonies in trees during the day. These colonies can contain hundreds or even thousands of individuals and are essential for the bats' social interactions, thermoregulation, and protection from predators.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

This striking and iconic bird species is highly recognisable with cultural significance to the local Indigenous communities. The Red-tailed Black Cockatoo is one of the largest cockatoo species in Australia, measuring up to 60 centimeters. Predominantly found in eucalypt woodlands, savannas, and riparian areas, they feed on seeds from various native tree species, using their powerful beaks to crack open seed pods and cones. Breeding season for Red-tailed Black Cockatoos typically occurs during the dry season, from May to September. They nest in tree hollows, often in large old-growth trees, where they raise their young.

Freshwater Mangroves

Australasian Darter

The Australasian Darter is often observed in its characteristic pose—perched on a tree branch with its wings spread wide to dry. These aquatic birds have sleek black feathers with white streaks on their necks and a distinctive slender, pointed bill. They possess unique adaptations for underwater hunting, including webbed feet for efficient swimming and a sharp, spear-like bill for catching fish. Unlike many other waterbirds, Australasian Darters do not have waterproof feathers, which aids them in diving deeper and swimming faster underwater. 

Nankeen Night Heron

Named for its pale buff colour reminiscent of a type of Chinese cloth called "nankeen," this heron is renowned for its nocturnal habits and cryptic colouring which provides effective camouflage against the shadows of their surroundings. Their diet consists mainly of fish, crustaceans, insects, and small vertebrates, which they catch using their sharp bills and stealthy movements. During wet season, they construct nests of sticks and branches in trees or dense vegetation near water bodies, where they lay clutches of eggs and raise their young.

Sacred Lotus Lilies

Australian Ibis

The Australian Ibis is a large wading bird characterised by its long neck, distinctive black head, and curved, slender bill, commonly found in a variety of habitats across Australia. These animals were once known as the Sacred ibis, but are sadly now often referred to as a 'bin chicken', tip turkey or dumpster diver. They tend to be opportunistic scavengers, and can often be spotted at rubbish tips and in city parks.

Crimson Finch

A small and vibrant bird species found in around the Yellow Water Billabong, showcasing striking crimson plumage on its head and throat, while the rest of its body is a mixture of white and black markings. These rare birds can be spotted amongst the tall floodplain grass areas, but mostly within Pandanus trees along the waters edge.

Barking Owl

Also known as the Winking Owl, they are a nocturnal bird of prey renowned for their loud and explosive vocalisations. Early settlers, upon hearing their night screeches, sometimes mistook Barking Owls for the sounds of women screaming. During the day, Barking Owls camouflaging themselves in dense vegetation or hollow trees, and become active at dusk into the night. They lay clutches of eggs, and both parents share incubation and chick-rearing duties.

Little Corella

The diminutive white cockatoo, distinguished by its erectable crest, is predominantly white, featuring a small pink patch in front of the eye. Frequently seen in sizeable, boisterous groups, sometimes numbering in the thousands, especially near water sources, it roosts in trees, nests in hollows, and predominantly forages on the ground. Renowned for its playful behaviour and comical antics, these birds engage in apparent games with each other, emitting a typically loud, slurred multi-note falsetto call.

Great Billed Heron

Rainbow Bee-eater

With graceful aerial acrobatics and vibrant colouring, the Rainbow Bee-eater is a delightful sight. As its name suggests, the Rainbow Bee-eater primarily feeds on bees, wasps, and other flying insects, which it catches in mid-air using its sharp bill and agile flight. After capturing its prey, the bird returns to a perch where it skilfully removes the stinger before consuming the insect.

Royal Spoonbill

This elegant bird is often observed wading in shallow waters in search of food. Their unique bill shape allows them to sweep their bills through the water, feeling for prey items, which they then capture and swallow. During breeding season, typically from May to September, adult birds develop striking breeding plumage, with a distinctive crest of feathers on their napes and bright yellow patches around their eyes. Both parents share incubation and chick-rearing duties.

Paperbark Tree

Providing vital nesting sites for various bird species, they serve as a sanctuary for wildlife. Bininj/Mungguy (Indigenous) people utilise various parts of the paperbark tree for a multitude of purposes. The bark is employed for bedding, bandages, shelter construction, crafting rafts, containers, and more. Furthermore, the leaves of the paperbark tree enhance the flavour of cooked dishes, and they are often incorporated into traditional ground ovens for added aroma and taste.

Pig-Nosed Turtle

The pig-nosed turtle, Warradjan, is found in Kakadu river systems feeding on aquatic plants, seeds and fruit that fall into the water growing on the riverbanks. They also enjoy small fish and insects. Locals fish for Warradjan using hand lines with fish or red meat as bait. Once caught, turtles are prepared using the leaves of the silver leaf paperbark tree to flavour the meat when cooked over coals, giving a eucalypt taste. Once the turtle has been eaten, the remaining shell pieces are burnt in the fire - as it's said to ensure the next turtles be fat.

Fun fact: our Warradjan Cultural Centre is not only named after this native animal, but the building is shaped like it too!

Sacred Kingfisher

Arnhem Bamboo

Little Kingisher

Water Chestnut

Freshwater Crocodile

Darwin Woollybutt

This tree features rough bark on the lower trunk and smooth white bark above, providing protection during early dry season burning. Serving as a crucial food source for Kakadu's birds and insects, its nectar-rich flowers attract species like native bees, lorikeets, honeyeaters, and friarbirds. Culturally significant, the flowering of this tree signals its time to start patchwork burning during Yekke season (May–June). The sturdy timber is also used for firewood, construction, and didgeridoos, while the seeds are consumed, and an infusion from the inner bark treats diarrhoea.

Archer Fish


An-djedj drop their leaves to produce yellow flowers in the dry season. These flowers develop into green pods, which harden, turn brown and split open to release seeds attached to a fluffy cotton- like material called Kapok. The bush is a seasonal indicator that tells Bininj/Mungguy when food resources such as turtle and freshwater crocodile eggs are ready to harvest.

Wandering Whistling Ducks

Black Kite

Masked Lawping