How to identify an animal

This page has information to help you identify animals in the Northern Territory (NT). 

If you find an animal in the NT that you can not identify you can do any of the following:

Go to Google Play or Itunes website to download the OzAtlas App.


Books that cover all Australian mammal species are:

  • Steve Van Dyck and Ronald Strahan, editors. (2008), The Mammals of Australia, 3rd edition. (New Holland Publishers, Sydney).
  • Steve Van Dyck, Ian Gynther and Andrew Baker (2013) Field Companion to the Mammals of Australia (CSIRO Publishing, Canberra)
  • Peter Menkhorst and Frank Knight (2010), A field guide to the mammals of Australia (Oxford University Press, Melbourne).

Rats, mice and dasyurids

One publication provides information for the rats, mice and dasyurids (carnivorous marsupials) that are found in the NT:

  • Jeff Cole and John Woinarski (2002) Field Guide to the Rodents and Dasyurids of the Northern Territory (Surrey Beatty & Sons).

A detailed specialist account of Australia's rats and mice is contained in:

  • C. H. S. Watts & H. J. Aslin (1981), The rodents of Australia (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).

Specific mammal groups

A number of books are available to help identify specific mammal groups. 

The best book on bats, which are probably the most difficult mammals to identify, is:

  • Sue Churchill (2009) Australian bats 2nd Edition (Allen & Unwin Publishers, Sydney).


A smaller book that covers NT bats is:

  • Bruce Thompson (1991), A field guide to bats of the Northern Territory (Conservation Commission of the NT, Darwin).


Four high quality field guides are available that cover all Australian birds. Any of these books can be used to identify NT birds:

  • Ken Simpson and Nicholas Day (2010), Field guide to the birds of Australia, 8th edition. (Penguin Books, Ringwood).
  • Michael Morcombe (2004), Field guide to Australian birds, 2nd edition (Steve Parish Publishing, Archerfield). Eguide also available to buy for smart phone.
  • Peter, Pat and Raoul Slater (2009), The Slater Field Guide to Australian birds, 2nd edition (New Holland, Frenchs Forest).
  • Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight. (2012), The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, 9th edition (HarperCollins, Sydney).

You can also use the Birds in backyards website

Reptiles and frogs

References that identify Australia's frogs and/or reptiles include:

  • Steve Wilson and Gerry Swan (2013), A complete Guide to the Reptiles of Australia, 4th edition (New Holland Publishers).
  • Harold Cogger (2014), Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia 7th edition (Reed New Holland, Frenchs Forest).

Several publications that only cover the NT may be valuable to confirm identifications. These include:

  • Paul Horner (1992), Skinks of the Northern Territory (Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin)
  • and Michael Tyler and Margaret Davies (1986), Frogs of the Northern Territory (Conservation Commission of the NT, Darwin).

Freshwater fish

The following book covers identification of all Australia's freshwater fish:

  • G. R. Allen, S. H. Midgley and M. Allen (2002), Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia (Western Australian Museum, Perth). 

Several books that cover identification of all or part of the NT's freshwater fish are:

  • Helen Larson and Keith Martin (1989), Freshwater fishes of the Northern Territory (Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin)
  • Rob Wager and Peter Unmack (2000), Fishes of the Lake Eyre catchment of central Australia (Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane).


Insects are a diverse group of animals. Most individuals can only be identified to the family level. A selection of useful identification books is listed below:

  • Graham Brown’s interactive key on CD for Northern Territory Insects - A Comprehensive Guide - to the identification of the insects of the Northern Territory with keys, a catalogue of species and over 4,000 photographs.
  • Brown, G.R. (2009). Northern Territory Insects A Comprehensive Guide. CD. CBIT Qld University
  • CSIRO (1991), The insects of Australia, 2nd edition (Melbourne University Press, Carlton).
  • P. Zborowski and R. Storey (2003) A Field Guide to Insects in Australia, 2nd edition (Reed New Holland, Sydney).
  • M.F. Braby (2004) The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia (CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood).
  • P. Zborowski and E.D. Edwards (2007) A Guide to Australian Moths (CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood).
  • G. Theischinger and J. Hawking (2006) The Complete Field Guide to Dragonflies of Australia (CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood).
  • M.S. Moulds (1990) Australian Cicadas. (New South Wales University Press, Kensington).

Last updated: 23 August 2016

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