Living with local wildlife

Living with local wildlife

Found an injured native animal?

For help, you can contact

Sydney Wildlife 02 9413 4300

WIRES 02 8977 3333 or 1300 094 737

Looking out for wildlife

Sydney’s parks, gardens and wetlands provide homes for many native animals and plants. We need to look out for them, and look after the environment we share.

Three threatened species live in Sydney:

  • Powerful owls
  • Eastern bent-wing bats, and
  • Grey-headed flying foxes.

Other native animals include eastern blue-tongue lizards, superb fairy-wrens, black-winged stilts, dwarf eastern tree frogs, barn owls and tawny frogmouths.

The city can be a challenging place for wildlife. That’s why we’re taking action. If we don’t, many species that live in our city could be lost forever.

We’ll know we’re doing a good job of creating a sustainable city that supports biodiversity if native animals are surviving and thriving in our local area.

Read more in the City’s urban ecology strategic action plan.

Avoid feeding wildlife

Feeding birds, possums or other native animals does them, and the environment, more harm than good.

While it can make us happier, feeding native animals and birds can make them unwell because what we give them is often not their natural food.

When we feed native animals, we alter their natural behaviour and can spread disease, encourage vermin, cause poor nutrition, encourage some species at the expense of others, not to mention make some animals aggressive.

To show your care for native plants and animals. Instead of feeding them it’s better if we protect the habitat they need for food and shelter. You can:

  • Plant native plants and shrubs that provide the food they prefer to eat
  • Create a water source in your garden such as a bird bath
  • Join a local bushcare group.

Read more in our urban habitat creation guide.

Pets and wildlife

If you have pets, there are things you can do to keep native animals safe in our city, parks and backyards.

Dog owner? Using a leash when you walk your dog helps our wildlife. Sydney’s parks are home to native birds and animals who are threatened by dogs. We often think about cats hunting native birds, but dogs hunt, too, and can do a lot of damage. Even in off-leash areas, keep your dog in sight – tiny vulnerable animals can be living in bushy areas of parks. If possible, keep your dog inside at night, too.

Own a cat? Cats are voracious hunters and should be kept inside wherever possible. It’s a myth that cats only hunt at night – they hunt during the day, too. If you can’t keep your cat inside during the day, at least do so at night when native animals are more active. A bell or scrunchie around a cat’s collar may assist in warning wildlife of a cat’s presence, but often cats learn how to hunt with these. Pet cats alone kill nearly 170,000 birds each day across Australia. Add the birds also killed by feral cats and this number jumps to a million. Cats have a huge and destructive impact on our environment in Sydney and Australia. It’s our responsibility as cat owners to minimise the impact our pets have.

For all pet owners, desexing your pets is a must. If you can’t look after your pet any more, take them to a shelter. Feral dogs and cats are the descendants of escaped or abandoned pets, and they do enormous damage to our environment.

Also, we know we have amazing wildlife on our doorstep, but please don’t think about keeping any as pets. The City does not endorse keeping snakes or other native Australian wildlife as pets.

Living with wildlife

We all live alongside wildlife. You may have different species of birds, possums, and bats where you live.

Below are some tips on how to leave harmoniously with native animals.

And remember – native birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals are protected in NSW. It’s an offence to harm, kill or remove native animals unless you hold a licence.


Magpies are common in our backyards and communities, popular with gardeners both for their lack of shyness and appetite for insect pests.

For most of the year magpies are docile but for four to six weeks during nesting they will often be very protective of their territory, including swooping passersby.

What you can do if it’s magpie nesting season:

  • Avoid walking where magpies are nesting
  • If you have to pass by, do so quickly and try to keep an eye on the magpie. Magpies are less likely to swoop if they see you are watching them. Some people put stickers of a pair of eyes on their bike helmets
  • If you’re riding a bike, it can be safer to dismount and walk past
  • Carry an open umbrella above your head

Find out more about magpies and how to deter them from swooping.

Flying foxes

Flying foxes are an essential part of our environment.

They are important pollinators and seed dispersers. You might not know that many flowering plants relying on flying foxes to pollinate them, not just bees and insects.

Human infections passed on by flying foxes are extremely rare. As of December 2016, there were just 3 confirmed cases of human Australian Bat Lyssavirus occurring in Queensland.

Flying foxes are protected in NSW. Approval is required to disturb or relocate them. If you live, study or work near flying foxes there are things you can do to make sure you and your winged neighbours are protected. Find out more on this OEH fact sheet.


Sydney is home to the very common brush-tailed possum as well as their smaller cousins, the ring-tail possum.

Some people find possums disruptive, especially if they find a way to make a home inside the roof of their house.

The NSW state government has policies and guidelines to help us live harmoniously with possums. Possums are protected, and a license is required to relocate them. Home and business owners are also required to maintain their property to prevent possums and other animals entering the premises, to prevent the need for relocation in the future which can be very disruptive for people and possums.

Find out more about living with possums on the OEH website.

Sick or injured native animals

City living can be difficult for local wildlife, and occasionally animals become sick, injured or orphaned.

If you come across an animal that is in distress or injured, there’s help close at hand.

You can call your local wildlife rescue group. Their volunteers specialise in rescuing and caring for native animals, will give you advice about what you can do, and will send someone to help if they can.

  • Sydney Wildlife: 02 9413 4300
  • WIRES: 02 8977 3333 or 1300 094 737

You can also report your sighting of rare native animals to the City.

Last updated: Friday, 19 June 2020