According to Corbett (2004), there are approximately 170 species ranging from insects to buffalo that have been found in the dingo’s diet. Contrary to popular belief by those who consider dingos as pests, livestock make up a small portion of their diet (2004). Fleming et al. (2001) showed that there are roughly ten species that comprise 80% of the dingo’s diet: red kangaroo, swamp wallaby, cattle, dusky rat, magpie goose, common brush tail possum, long-haired rat, agile wallaby, European rabbit, and common wombat.
While in northeastern parts of Australia the dingoes are observed to be more opportunistic, with a greater variety of mammals composing their diet (Vernes et al., 2001), the dingoes are normally considered to be quite specialized in their hunting. They prefer commonly-found medium to large mammals, with non-mammalian prey such as reptiles making up approximately 10% of their diet.
The dietary composition of the dingo will vary with their home range and region. For example, in northern Australian rainforests they prey primarily on magpie geese and agile wallabies, whereas in the southern regions they hunt European rabbits, rodents, and kangaroos. In central Australia, the environment is arid and much scarcer in wildlife, so they tend to hunt habits, lizards, kangaroos, and cattle carcasses, similar to their dietary composition in the dry deserts of the northwest and southwest. In the south and east highlands they prey mainly on small marsupials such as wallabies, possums, and wombats. Interestingly, dingoes living on islands such as Fraser island or costal regions have also been known to eat fish, seals, penguins, seabirds, echidnas, crabs, skinks, fruit, plants and beetles (Fleming, 2001).
The amount of water intake for dingoes is on average one litre in the summer and half that amount in the winter per day. Since many dingoes live in arid parts of Australia, they have a harder time meeting their water requirements and struggle to live on the liquid content of their prey. In fact, weaned cubs in the arid Central Australia have been known to obtain water requirements from not only their food, but also from the regurgitation of water by their mother. The mother consequently maintains the same water requirement during lactation by feeding on the urine and feces of her cub. This water recycling is a key adaptation allowing the dingo to live in such harsh environments (Fleming, 2001).
Dingoes are natural born hunters, killing even relatively large animals with a swift bite to the throat. Often with larger prey they will descend upon it as a small pack. Due to the lack of obstructing vegetation, large open areas are most useful when ambushing kangaroos as a pack, of which the juvenile kangaroos are understandably most at risk (Fleming, 2001). Dingoes are also experienced scavengers, such that some individuals living close to urbanization subsist almost entirely on human food. Again, juvenile animals are more susceptible to predation by the dingo, however in groups of two or more the wild dog has been known to bring down adult water buffaloes, large monitor lizards, and cattle.