Nature conservation

Threatened species

Brush-tailed Bettong (South-East Mainland) - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Bettongia penicillata penicillata
Conservation status in NSW: Extinct
Commonwealth status: Extinct
Profile last updated: 05 Aug 2019


The Brush-tailed Bettong is a small potoroid marsupial which once occupied most of the Australian mainland. Two subspecies have been described, Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi (often referred to as Woylie) and the now extinct Bettongia penicillata penicillata (Brush-tailed Bettong).

The Brush-tailed Bettong (south-east mainland) was grey-brown in colour with pale yellowish-grey undersides. The sides of the face and the bases of the ears had a reddish tinge. The base of the long tail was also grey-brown and the last two-thirds were dark brown to black above. The tail had a crested tip. Males and females were similar in appearance and no geographic variation has been reported.

Measurements of the Brush-tailed Bettong (south-east mainland) are unavailable, however, the similar Woylie has a head and body length of 300–380 mm, tail length of 290–360 mm and weight between 1.1 and 1.6 kg.  


The Brush-tailed bettong, in its various subspecies, once occupied most of the Australian mainland south of the tropics including the arid and semi arid zones of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. It was believed that the nominate subspecies (penicillata) occurred across southern Australia from South Australia, through north-west Victoria to central inland Queensland.

It was abundant in the mid-19th century. By the 1920s, it was extinct over much of its range, with the last records from NSW probably in the late 19th century. There are four remaining natural populations of Woylie (all of subspecies ogilbyi) at Perup, Kingston, Dryandra woodland and Tutanning Nature Reserve, all located in south western Western Australia. From these areas Woylies have been re-established at an additional 22 locations including a number of sites in Western Australia, Scotia Sanctuary in south western NSW run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and on three islands and two mainland sites in South Australia.

Habitat and ecology

  • The Brush-tailed Bettong (south-east mainland) was associated with grassland, heath and sclerophyll woodland. Other accounts record the subspecies from open eucalypt forest with low woody scrub, tussock grass and occasional bare patches.
  • The Brush-tailed Bettong (south-east mainland) was adapted to habitat subject to frequent fires. The plants it required for food and shelter were also well adapted to fire.
  • Brush-tailed Bettongs (south-east mainland) foraged from dusk until an hour or two before dawn. During the day the Brush-tailed Bettong (south-east mainland) rested in a hidden nest in a shallow depression (often under a bush or similar cover) made of grass and shredded bark.
  • The Brush-tailed Bettong (south-east mainland) had an unusual diet. The bulk of its nutrients (especially in summer and autumn) were derived from the fruiting bodies of underground fungi. They were also recorded eating bulbs, tubers, seeds, insects and resin. They had also been seen burying seeds but it was not known if it ever recovered them.
  • The Brush-tailed Bettong (south-east mainland) bred prolifically throughout the year. Like many other kangaroos, it came into heat shortly after giving birth and kept embryos in a kind of suspended animation (called embryonic diapause) until conditions improved. Females were sexually mature at six months. The young spent 90 days in the pouch and there was an interval of about 100 days between each birth. Weaned joeys accompanied the mother at heel until they were displaced when new young left the pouch.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region