All kangaroos are herbivores, which means they eat only plants, not meat.
Different species of kangaroos, however, eat different types of plants. All kangaroos are native to Australia. It’s helpful to understand the different types of kangaroos when you want to answer the question, what do kangaroos eat? There are four major species of kangaroos:
- Red Kangaroos are not only the largest kind of kangaroos in the world, but the largest marsupial on the planet, too. Red Kangaroos can be as tall as seven feet and can weigh up to 200 pounds. They live in the dry areas of Australia.
- Eastern Grey Kangaroos may not be as well known as the Red Kangaroos, but since they tend to live in the fertile parts of Australia where more people live, they are seen the most.
- Western Grey Kangaroos are found in the southern and southwestern areas of Australia. They are slightly smaller than Red Kangaroos.
- The Antilopine Kangaroos live in the grassy plains and forests of Australia’s far north. While kangaroos are typically shy, Antilopine Kangaroos are more sociable than other species of kangaroo.
Because the four species of kangaroos live in different areas of Australia, their diets differ slightly from one species to another.
What do Gray Kangaroos eat?
The western grey kangaroo is the smallest species and differs from the eastern kangaroo in size and fur coloration. The western species has darker coloration around the head, which is why it is also known as the black-faced or sooty kangaroo. This roo has also earned the moniker “stinker” due to the male’s odor, which is similar to curry.
The western grey kangaroo feeds primarily on grasses at night and early in the morning, but also on low tree leaves and leafy shrubs.
Eastern Grey Kangaroos eat mostly grasses. To see eastern grey kangaroos, travel to the eastern region of Australia’s mainland, from the Cape York Peninsula to Victoria. If you go to Tasmania, you might see them because they are the only kangaroo species that lives there in the wild.
An eastern grey kangaroo may appear similar to a western grey kangaroo at first glance, but the eastern species is larger and has a grayish outer coat with a cream or silver belly. The eastern grey kangaroo is smaller than the red kangaroo, but it has a stockier and more muscular build, as well as a long, powerful tail. An eastern grey kangaroo lacks the red kangaroo’s muzzle markings but has larger, wider eyes.
What do Red Kangaroos eat?
Red Kangaroos eat both grasses and shrubs.
Kangaroos also eat their own regurgitated food. Like cows, kangaroos can chew their cud. Their stomachs have different chambers that allow them to store some of what they eat so that they can chew on later.
Kangaroo teeth are unique, too. Like humans, kangaroos have incisor teeth and molars in the back. They use their front teeth to crop grasses and their back molars to grind the grass. Since the grasses are abrasive, eventually, the incisors become worn and fall out. Then the molars in the back move forward to replace them and the kangaroo grows more teeth in the back.
What do Antilopine kangaroos eat?
This species is known as the red kangaroo due to the male’s short red fur, but it is also known as the giant red kangaroo due to its large size. This kangaroo is sexually dimorphic, with the female being much smaller and wearing a blue-gray fur coat as opposed to the male’s red coat. Long, raised ears and a rectangular face with black and white markings on each side of the muzzle distinguish both sexes.
Across Australia’s central mainland, red kangaroos can be found grazing on grasses and some shrubs. They have adapted to their dry, arid environment by relying on the moisture in their food to go months without drinking water.
What do baby kangaroos eat?
Both male and female kangaroos eat the same kinds of plants. When it comes to baby kangaroos, however, there’s a different answer to the question, what do kangaroos eat? Like all marsupials, baby kangaroos, called “joeys,” are born before they are fully developed. A joey isn’t much bigger than a lima bean when born. The baby crawls up to the mother’s pouch and stays there, surviving on mother’s milk, for about nine months. After that, for the next few months, the joey will spend part of the time in the pouch and part of the time in the outside world, sometimes drinking mother’s milk and sometimes eating grasses.
Remarkably, the mother kangaroo can produce two different kinds of milk at the same time. This is because as soon as her baby is born, she can get pregnant again. A mother kangaroo may still be nursing an older joey when another baby is born. The kind of milk she provides for the older joey will be different than for the younger one.
Sometimes, when a joey loses his mother before he’s ready to be on his own, humans try to rear the joey. Kangaroos are lactose intolerant. If they drink conventional milk, they can go blind. Some joeys have been hand-reared successfully, but none has been able to be released to live on their own. Hand-reared kangaroos must be kept in captivity, where they can lead long, healthy lives.