Microbats are small bats with a wingspan of
about 25cm. They feed on insects such as mosquitos. Many microbats
use echolocation to navigate in complete darkness. Some microbats
spend their days deep within caves while others rest beneath bark on
trees and in man-made structures such as houses and buildings.
Megabats, or fruit bats as they are often called, are usually a lot
larger in size with a wingspan of up to 1 metre. They feed on fruit,
blossoms and nectar. They do not use echolocation to navigate at
night but have well-developed eyes and a strong sense of smell which
helps them locate food. They live in social groups in trees in
of Flying Foxes
In South-east Queensland, there are 3 species of flying fox which
commonly occur. The Grey Headed Flying Fox, Black Flying Fox and
Little Red Flying Fox.
Black Flying Fox (Pteropus alecto)
The Black Flying Fox is the largest of the 3 common species . Adults
weigh 600 to 900 grams and have a forearm length of 153mm to 191mm.
The Black Flying Fox has black fur often with a reddish brown mantle
on the back of the neck. Its fur is sometimes tipped with white. The
lower leg and ankle is unfurred. Some Black Flying Foxes have
lighter fur around their eyes.
Their preferred diet includes blossoms of eucalypts and paperbark as
well as fruit. This includes the blossoms and fruit of introduced
species. They congregate in camps during the day and travel about
50kms to foraging areas at night. Mating season is in March and
April, with the females giving birth to a single young in October
The Black Flying Fox has a range from Northern Australia from around
Shark Bay in Western Australia to northern NSW. They appear to be
extending their range further south into New South Wales. They also
occur in Indonesia and southern New Guinea.
Grey Headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
The Grey Headed Flying Fox adult weighs between 600grams – 1000
grams. They have a forearm of 150mm – 1800mm. The Grey Headed Flying
Fox has silver-grey to dark grey fur with rusty-brown to orange
mantle encircling the neck. Its fur extends down the legs to the
The diet of the Grey Headed Flying Fox includes the fruit and
blossoms of some 80 species. The young are born between September to
November and mating takes place April to May.
The Grey Headed Flying Fox has a range from around Rockhampton in
Queensland, along the coastal strip through to New South Wales to
Western Victoria. It is endemic to Australia and is listed as
Little Red Flying Fox (Pteropus scapulatus)
The Little Red Flying Fox is the smallest of the species found in
South East Queensland. Adults weigh 300-600 grams and have a forearm
of 125-155mm. It has a rich reddish-brown to light brown fur all
over the body, often with a grey patch on the head. The wings are
red-brown and are translucent in flight. There is often light creamy
brown fur where the wing membrane and the shoulder meet.
Little Red Flying Foxes are predominantly blossom feeders and since
the flowering of Australian plants varies depending on climatic
conditions, the unpredictability of this food resource means that
the Little Red Flying Fox is highly nomadic. In the camps, which
they commonly share with Black and Grey Headed Flying Fox, they hang
in tight groups and the combined weight often results in damage to
their roost trees. Mating occurs from November to January and the
young are born April to May.
The Little Red Flying Fox has a range from Shark Bay in Western
Australia through Queensland and down to northern Victoria. They
have a range much further inland than the other species.
Flying foxes live in communal groups. They have a preference for
tall and reasonably dense vegetation close to creeks or rivers or
over swampy areas. Some camps are permanent and are occupied all
year round. During summer these camps are usually the largest and
noisiest as they are breeding camps. For the rest of the year camps
are smaller and quieter and often transitory in response to food
sources. Permanent camps need an area large enough to allow bats to
move within the camp so that damaged vegetation can recover.
Little Red Flying Foxes are the most destructive of campsite
vegetation. This is caused by their roosting behaviour of forming
dense clusters of up to 30 bats hanging from one small branch. The
combined weight of the animals often causes the branches to break.
The result is areas of broken vegetation that appears to have been
damaged by storms. As clearing of forest vegetation continues the
availability of camp sites have become more restricted and the
incidence of damaged vegetation is on the increase. Flying foxes are
increasingly setting up camps in suburban areas. This can be in
response to destruction of existing areas due to development or the
continuous disturbance of campsites. There are other advantages in
the form of reliable food sources from garden fruit trees and the
policy of councils planting native vegetation. Many campsites
previously located in rural areas have been overtaken by the urban
The diet of the Grey Headed Flying Fox and the Black Flying fox
consist of fruit, pollen, nectar, stamen and flower parts, leaves
and bark. The Little Red Flying Fox is predominantly a pollen and
nectar feeder and is a “blossom nomad” and follows the flowering of
Flying Foxes have a preference for blossoms that consist of light
coloured flowers arranged in bunches located on the periphery of the
tree canopy. The flowers of most eucalypts, lilly pilly and
melaleuca exhibit these characteristics. They also produce the most
nectar and pollen at night. As they gather nectar, they also have
deposits of pollen on their chests which they transfer to other
trees. Flying foxes are the major pollinators of eucalyptus and
rainforests. Preferred fruit is also in bunches, at the end of
branches. A sweet musky odour is highly attractive, but colour is
not important for the Grey Headed or Black Flying Fox. Urban bats
also eat domestic fruit such as mulberries and mango.
The male flying fox does not begin breeding until around the age of
The females commence breeding in the second year after their birth,
and from then on most of the year is tied up with some part of their
reproductive cycle, or caring for young. Females ovulate from
February to April and give birth to a single young (occasionally
twins) from October to December.
The Little Red Flying Fox breeds six months out of phase with the
other flying foxes and gives birth between May to July.
How Can one Live In Harmony With Flying Foxes?
We have a lot of gum trees and I don’t like the noise they
make at night when they are feeding in the trees?
The blossom and nectar of gum and melaleucas trees makes up the
natural diet of the flying fox. Gum trees only flower for a
relatively short period of time so the noise shouldn’t last for too
long. Remember that flying foxes are the chief pollinators of
eucalypt and rainforests so it is important that they have access to
their natural diet so that they can continue to pollinate our
How can I stop them eating the fruit off our fruit trees?
Many people have learned to compromise with both birds and flying
foxes. You can place paper bags over the low hanging fruit that you
wish to keep for yourself; this will ensure that the flying foxes,
birds and insects cannot gain access to this fruit. You can then
leave the remainder of the fruit higher in the tree for the flying
foxes and birds.
How can I correctly put netting from
my fruit trees?
If you wish to put fruit netting over fruit trees, there are some
very important considerations that you should note for the safety of
both flying foxes and birds. Firstly it is important that you use
good quality netting. Secondly, when installing the netting, drive
some stakes into the ground, bend some PVC pipe over the fruit tree
and then cover this frame with the netting. You MUST pull the
netting taut and secure it well to the ground. If birds or flying
foxes then land on the netting they have less chance of being coming
entangled in it as they should be able to fly off the netting.
Caring For Bats
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer bat rehabilitator, you
should contact The Northern Wildlife Carers 1800-008290 or your
local wildlife group.
They truly are remarkable and intelligent animals and many wildlife
carers have found the experience of rescuing and caring for sick and
injured bats to be one of the most rewarding jobs.