Honey Possum (Tarsipes rostratus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family:    Tarsipedidae
Size:    Length:  2.5 to 3.5 inches (6 to 9 cm)
Weight: 0.25 to 0.42 ounces (7 to 12 g)
Diet: Flower nectar and pollen
Distribution: Australia
Young:  2 to 4, up to 3 times a year
Animal Predators:  Cats
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: 1 to 2 years in the wild



·       In Australia, honey possums are called “noolbengers.”

·       Opossums are different from possums—opossums are larger and have white faces.

·       Honey possums are only distantly related to possums and do not eat honey.

·       Bats are the only other mammals whose diet consists mainly of nectar.

·       The honey possum is the sole species within the family Tarsipedidae.



Honey possums are greyish-brown with yellow to white undersides. They have three longitudinal stripes down their back, and are as small as a mouse Their eyes are large and dark and their tail is long, hairless and prehensile, allowing them to grab branches and hang upside down. They can use their forepaws to grasp flowers. Their snout is long and slender and their tongue is extremely long, enabling them to extract nectar from flowers. 



Honey possums live in the open woodlands and shrublands of southwestern Australia. Males have exclusive home ranges of two to three acres, while females have smaller ranges of just over 100 square yards. 


Feeding Habits

They are the only non-flying mammals whose diets consists solely of the nectar and pollen found in flowers, especially the Banksia blossom. 



Mating season occurs throughout the year, but the rituals are short. The female allows the male near only long enough to impregnate her. Newborn honey possums are the smallest at birth of all mammals, weighing only two to six milligrams. The mother gives birth to them in an abandoned bird’s nest, and they nurse while in her pouch. Although she is capable of nursing up to four young, honey possums rarely have more than three offspring. They stay there until they reach 1/10 of an ounce (2.8 g), at which point their eyes have opened and they have a full coat of fur. At this time, the mother will leave them in the nest while she forages for food, returning often to feed them. When they are approximately three months of age, they begin to follow their mother out of the nest. By six months, they reach full maturity and have left their mother’s side to head out on their own. The mother gives birth to up to three litters per year and can keep the fertilized eggs dormant, delaying birth until a time when food is abundant. 



Honey possums sleep during the day and come out to feed at dusk. In periods of cold weather, honey possums hibernate for the duration of the drop in temperature, letting their body temperature and metabolic rate drop. Groups of honey possums may gather together for warmth during hibernation. 



Although honey possums are not a conservation concern at this time, the decrease in Banksia blossom bushes due to urban development may pose a threat to their population in the future.







Honey Possum Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Vaughan, T., Ryan, J. and Czaplewski, N. (2000). Mammalogy, Fourth Edition. Orlando: Saunders College Publishing