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Grey-headed flying foxes

Grey-headed flying foxes

What are grey-headed flying foxes?

The grey-headed flying fox, also known as a fruit bat, is one of the largest bats in the world, with a wingspan of over 1 metre. The grey-headed flying fox is mostly dark brown or charcoal in colour, except for a grey head and dark orange mantle around the neck.

Where do grey-headed flying foxes live? 

Grey-headed flying foxes live in trees in urban areas, forests and woodlands. They are found along eastern Australia from Rockhampton in Queensland, through New South Wales to Melbourne in Victoria. Usually only a small proportion of this range is used at one time as they will selectively forage where food is available.

What do grey-headed flying foxes eat?

Grey-headed flying foxes are frugivores (fruit eating) and nectivores (nectar eating). At night the grey-headed flying fox will fly around in search of food, with some travelling up to 50km to their feeding areas. Fruits from a range of native and introduced plants, such as grevillea, fig, bottle brush and palm fruits are consumed as well as pollen and nectar from native flowers, particularly from gumtrees.

What role do grey-headed flying foxes play in their ecosystem?

Grey-headed flying foxes are extremely important for keeping our bushland healthy. The main food source of the grey-headed flying fox is the blossom from Eucalyptus trees. When feeding on these blossoms they pollinate the trees as well as spreading new seeds throughout our native forests. They are also responsible for the pollination and seed dispersal of many other native trees including native figs and palms. 

How are grey-headed flying foxes adapted to their environment?

Grey-headed flying foxes have very big eyes giving them exceptional vision, particularly at night. They use this and their excellent sense of smell to understand their surroundings, such as helping mothers and babies find each other, and to find food. They have wings to help them find food and escape predators. 

Flying foxes hang upside down as they have poorly developed leg muscles, which makes them lighter for flight. This also helps them to take off into flight as they drop themselves from their branch. They have claws for hanging and moving, and their thumb claw helps them to move around trees, reach for food and socialise. 

Grey-headed flying foxes have rough tongues to help peel the skin from fruit, and separate the fruit from the seed. Their digestive system is very fast, and they can excrete faeces in as little as 20 minutes after eating, making them lighter for travelling long distances. 

What is the life cycle of grey-headed flying foxes?

Young grey-headed flying foxes are usually born around September and October. They are carried by the mother for the first three weeks, clinging to her body with their claws and suckling her milk. As they grow they become too big and will be left behind at the bat camp with other babies in a special “creche” while the mother goes on her feeding expedition. After roughly three months the young are able to fly and by six months begin to feed independently. They can live up to 15 years in the wild.

What are the threats to grey-headed flying foxes and how can we help them?

Grey-headed flying foxes require foraging resources and roosting sites and their biggest threat is the destruction of these areas. Habitat loss for development, farming and logging leads to a decrease in the variety of flowering and fruiting trees. Not only does this take away food and places to roost, it also forces the flying foxes to use more energy, flying further to reach food or other campsites. Habitat restoration (planting new trees) is the most effective way to help this.

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