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?
Eastern Grey Kangaroos eat mostly grasses.
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.
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.