Bats & Flying Foxes Generally
Flying Foxes are a type of Bat, which in turn is a type of mammal.
(Mammals being animals that feed their young on milk)
Bats are the only mammal that truly flies.
Flying foxes are a type of "mega-bat" (Megachiroptera) that live on fruit and nectar and navigate by sight and smell, not "radar" like "Micro-bats", and there are 7 species of flying foxes in Australia
Grey-headed Flying Fox
is Australia's largest bat (also one of the most common) and its scientific name is Pteropus poliocephalus
Distribution and Habitat
The grey-headed flying fox is found along Australia's east coast from Rockhampton, Queensland in the North to Melbourne, Victoria in the south.
The grey-headed flying fox is very mobile and migrates in search of food.
They like to "camp out" in trees, eucalypt forests, rainforests, sclerophyll vegetation usually near water or in mangroves and will often share their camp with bat species like the black flying-fox and little red flying-fox.
What makes this species easily identifiable is their grey head (fox-like, hence their name) with reddish (rusty brown) coloured fur around their neck.
They are also the only species of flying fox in Australia with fur on their legs down to their toes
Dark fur covers their body which is around 25cm long and their leathery wingspan can be up to 1 meter. The weight of this flying fox can range from 600gm to 1kg
One of the reasons flying foxes hang upside down is their leg muscles are not very strong, so does not support their body weight easily when standing upright.
Bat wings and flying fox wings are made up of a two-layered, almost see through able flap of skin stretched between the lightweight bones of the hindlimb, forelimb and tail.
Roosting & Camping
During the day flying foxes literally "hang out" by roosting in trees often in large numbers, hanging upside down with their wings wrapped around their body. These "camps" can be made up of thousands of individual flying foxes. These camps are normally in trees near water and Grey headed flying foxes often make joint camps with "black" and "little red" flying foxes.
Grey-headed flying foxes feed on flowers and fruit.
Though sometimes referred to as "fruit bats" flying foxes mainly eat nectar and pollen,
especially from native trees and shrubs such as Gum (Eucalypt blossom), banksias, native figs, ti-trees, native fruits, and also orchard fruit if necessary.
To eat the flying fox uses it strong teeth to crush the pollen, flowers and fruit, (but spit out fruit seeds)
Flying foxes will do a lot of moving around to find these seasonal food sources,
and often fly over 50 kms in one night to feed and then returning to their camp.
When food in that region becomes scarce they will move camp to a new food source, and in this way they are considered "Nomadic"
The transporting of seeds and pollen etc (from parent tree to many kilometres away) and dispersal over a wide region means flying foxes play a vital part in the diversity of our forests and wild flowers and forest regeneration.
Female grey-headed flying foxes reach maturity at the age of 3 years, and mate in April/May.
Six months later they give birth to one baby in October/November.
The young Flying fox is born already totally furred, and will feed on milk from mums nipples near her wingpits.
For the first month or so the baby stays constantly with the mother even clinging onto its mothers belly whilst mum forages for food.
Then it will be left in camp when the mother goes out at night for more food, and the mother returning can locate her infant by smell.
The young learn to fly at around 3 months, and will remain dependant on their mother for 4 to 5 months., before joining her on food flights to learn the skills of feeding for themselves
The grey-headed flying fox is listed as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth's
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).
Loss of feeding and roosting areas due to forest clearing, commercial, agriculture and housing estates are of major concern to this animal, both for food and housing.
Due to this they are sometimes forced to feed off "Orchard fruits" and are then seen as pests by farmers and killed.
As stated under "feeding", the transporting of seeds and pollen etc (from parent tree to many kilometres away) and dispersal over a wide region means flying foxes play a vital part in the diversity of our forests and wild flowers and forest regeneration.