As you might already be aware, kangaroos are grazing animals. This means that they’re herbivores. But, have you ever wondered what kangaroos actually eat?
Mostly kangaroos prefer to eat grass whether this is native grasses or planted pastures. They also will eat other foliage such as ferns, leaves, fruit, flowers and even moss. Something that may surprise you is that kangaroos are very much like cows. They will regurgitate their food and chew it twice before digesting it fully.
Let’s explore further on what foods kangaroos eat and how they forage for their food.
- 1 A Normal Kangaroo Diet
- 2 What Do Other Species In The Broader Kangaroo Family Eat?
- 3 Final Thoughts
A Normal Kangaroo Diet
As we’ve already learned, kangaroos are herbivores and survive solely on plant material. Their main diet consists of grass, leaves, fruits and flowering plants. Of course, a kangaroo’s diet will vary depending on where in Australia it lives as it will depend what types of plants or grasses are available in that region.
Large kangaroo species such as the red kangaroo, prefer their main diet to consist of fresh green grass. This mainly includes native Australian grasses and those that have been used to sow pastures for farm animals such as cows and sheep.
Grasses provide a good amount of fiber which is important to a kangaroo’s diet. It’s also important to note that fresh, green grass is easier for kangaroos to digest when compared to dry grasses. For that reason, kangaroos will generally only feed on dry grasses when there is no fresh, green grass available.
That is why you’ll often see large mobs of kangaroos grazing in open fields and on farmland pastures. Most true kangaroos like the eastern and western greys, the antilopines and the reds will exist entirely on grass for most of the year.
However, during some parts of the year, these kangaroos will also feed on certain leaves and even on flowering plants. This mainly happens after heavy rains when these plants tend to put on fresh, new growth.
There are other species in the broad kangaroo family that are generally smaller and these will have a more varied diet. These species include tree kangaroos, wallabies and quokkas. We’ll look at their food preferences in more detail a little later.
How Do Large Kangaroos Eat Grass?
While grazing, large kangaroos will tend to tear out the blades of grass by using rapid head movements. They then use their molars to grind up the grass to make it easier to digest.
Interestingly, kangaroos will replace their teeth throughout their lives to ensure that they can always effectively chew and grind the grass that they forage on. The reason for this is that the silica in the grass will eventually grind down the teeth that they use to chew. To overcome this problem, new teeth grow to replace the worn teeth once they fall out.
Even though kangaroos will often regurgitate their food to chew it twice, they do not have multiple chambered stomachs like ruminants such as cows.
Kangaroos use a fermentation process in their large stomach to break the grass down into essential nutrients. During periods of drought, these animals can hold the food in their stomach for long periods of time to continue the fermenting process.
This allows the marsupials to extract more nutrients from every morsel of grass that they eat.
How Do Kangaroos Forage For Food?
Kangaroos use their vision to find large areas of grasses or pastures. These marsupials have very keen vision and this helps them to find the most succulent patches of grass. That’s why you’ll often see them stop while they’re feeding to check you out. By this, they’re determining whether you’re a threat or not.
Kangaroos also have a very keen sense of smell. This allows them to find suitable watering holes that are sometimes several miles away from where they’re grazing. This is essential for kangaroos that live in the outback because water can be quite scarce in these regions.
It’s most common to see kangaroos busily grazing during dawn and dusk. This is because the heat can be immense in the outback during the middle of the day and kangaroos often use this time to rest under the shade of any large trees that they can find.
What Do Kangaroos In Captivity Eat?
It’s common for kangaroos to be kept in wildlife sanctuaries and zoos around the world. This is because these marsupials are only native to Australia and New Guinea. For the organizations that keep kangaroos in captivity, it’s important to ensure that these animals are fed a suitable diet.
More often than, these organizations will feed the kangaroos a diet consisting of hay, alfalfa or specially formulated pellets that are designed for grazing animals. It’s also common for these zoos and sanctuaries to provide other supplements to the kangaroo’s diet including fruits and vegetables such as bananas, apples, broccoli, carrots and lettuce.
What Do Baby Kangaroos Feed On?
Baby kangaroos are called joeys. These joeys are born completely blind and hairless and are only the size of a jelly bean. At birth, these tiny creatures will crawl into their mother’s pouch and attach themselves to a teat.
At this stage, they’re even too small to suckle. For this reason, the mother kangaroo will instinctively pump the milk into the joeys mouth so that it can develop and grow. It takes around six months before the joey is large enough to leave the pouch for short periods of time.
Once the joey ventures out of the pouch, it will start to graze on grass just like its mother. However, the joey will continue to supplement its feeding with milk until it is around 16 to 18 months old.
How Much Food Do Kangaroos Need On A Daily Basis?
Kangaroos will spend around 6 to 8 hours per day grazing. Most grasses aren’t particularly high in nutrients so these animals need to eat a fair amount in order to provide all their nutritional needs.
An average sized kangaroo would eat around 1.1 to 1.32 pounds (500 to 600 grams) of grass or similar each and every day. This is why kangaroos have large stomachs. The fermentation process does take some time, so their stomachs need to hold a fair amount of food.
It’s also interesting to note that kangaroos will generally eat less grass in summer. During this time, they focus on reducing the amount of energy that they use for foraging for food and instead, spend their time resting during the heat of the day.
On the other hand, kangaroos will eat more in winter primarily because they need the extra energy to help maintain their body temperature.
What Do Other Species In The Broader Kangaroo Family Eat?
As already mentioned, there are other species in the broader kangaroo family including wallabies, tree kangaroos and quokkas. These smaller animals often have somewhat different diets from the large kangaroos that roam the country.
What Do Wallabies Eat?
Wallabies look very similar to kangaroos except that they’re considerably smaller. However, they are also marsupials and have the same strong hind legs, large feet and powerful tail.
These animals tend to live in more wooded areas and there are around 30 different species. Although wallabies will also graze on grass, their diet often includes leaves, flowers, moss, ferns and insects.
Wallabies have chambered stomachs that are similar to those of horses. The fore-stomach is u-shaped and this is used to digest various types of fibrous plant materials. Like kangaroos, wallabies will also regurgitate their food and chew it a second time in order to aid digestion.
What Do Tree Kangaroos Eat?
Unlike large kangaroos, tree kangaroos are omnivores. This means that they mostly eat leaves, fruits, flowers and insects. On occasion, tree kangaroos may also eat small birds and their eggs.
Tree kangaroos are marsupials but they look very different to large kangaroos and wallabies. They are primarily adapted to living in trees with strong sharp claws that they use for climbing. They also have the capacity to jump down onto the forest floor from a height of 60 feet (18 metres).
What Do Quokkas Eat?
Quokkas are one of the cutest and happiest animals you’re ever likely to see. In fact, they don’t look very much like kangaroos or wallabies. Their cute, happy faces look like a combination between a rabbit, a koala and a squirrel.
However, like kangaroos and wallabies, quokkas also regurgitate their food in order to digest it. Mostly, these cute little animals will feed on leaves and grass. They are also particularly fond of the flowers of native Australian plants in the Guichenotia genus.
You now have a full understanding of what kangaroos eat. Large kangaroos will exist for the most part, on different grasses. They can often be seen grazing happily in fields and on farmland pastures during the evening and in the early morning.
If grasses are a little scarce, kangaroos will also feed on leaves, fruits and even flowering plants. Like cows, kangaroos will regurgitate their food and chew it twice in order to digest it better and get the most nutrients out of it.