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Black Flying Fox Fact File

Pteropus alecto

Credit: The Animal Facts

Weight

500-950g

(17.6-33.5oz)

Length

24-28cm

(9.4-11in)

Lifespan

Wild 5 years

Captive 19 years

Diet

Herbivores

Grass, Weeds, Leaves

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

Australia's Largest Bat!

The black flying fox is Australia's largest species of flying fox and is found along the coastline of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.


At night these bats emerge from their roost to feed on a range of fruit and nectar. Their roost is typically found in a tree but unusually some have been found living in limestone caves.


Females give birth to a single pup which will initially cling to her fur. They are then left alone in the roost until they become large enough to fly themselves.


This species is affected by habitat destruction, increasing heat and hunting.


Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.

Appearance

What does the Black Flying Fox look like?

The body of the black flying fox is colored black and covered by a coat of short fur. Often this has a white tip. Their leg fur extends to the knee.

A reddish or cream patch of fur may be present on the back of the neck.

A faint brown ring may be seen around the eye.

An average black flying fox will measure 24-28cm (9.4-11in) long with a weight of between 500 and 950g (17.6-33.5oz). Their wings can reach a span of up to 1m (3.3ft) across.

Adaptations

How does the Black Flying Fox survive in its habitat?


Bats such as the black flying fox are the only mammals to be equipped with true wings which help to carry them across large distances.

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Diet

What does the Black Flying Fox eat?

The black flying fox is a herbivore. They will feed on a range of fruits and nectar. Their main food source is the flowers of eucalypts, banksia and other similar plants. This species will seek out cultivated fruit and feed within orchards.


This species has been observed to eat leaves. They will take the leaf and chew it to obtain the liquids before spitting out thefibres.

Learn more about the Black Flying Fox in this video from National Geographic on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Black Flying Fox?

Black Flying foxes are naturally found in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.


In Australia the black flying fox can be found across the tropical northern areas of the country from Western Australia, through the Northern Territory and Queensland and down in to New South Wales.


They also occur on a range of islands in the Torres Strait.


Over the past 100 years this species has been increasing its range by moving to more southerly areas.

Habitat

Where can the Black Flying Fox survive?

Their range covers the coast of Australia and takes in areas of mangroves, swamp, tropical moist forest and savanna.


Most of their roosts are formed in trees. In one area of Western Australia the species will roost in a limestone cave.

Black Flying Fox (Pteropus alecto)

Credit: The Animal Facts

Reproduction

How does the Black Flying Fox produce its young?

Mating takes place from March to April along the east coast. In the Northern Territory they breed from January to February.


As the breeding season begins the males will form territories on a branch where they can mate with a number of females.


A single pup is born live after a 6 month gestation period. Young initially cling to their mother and will remain attached to her as she goes out to feed for 4 weeks. After this the pup is left on its own. Pups hold on using small claws which dig in to her fur.


Weaning off of milk occurs at 5 months old.


Sexual maturity is reached by two years old but it typically takes another year for females to breed.


If a female loses a pup she can become pregnant immediately and this leads to births occuring out of season.

Behavior

What does the Black Flying Fox do during its day?

These animals spend their time hanging upside down in the trees. They form large groups high in the canopy. These groups may grow to include thousands of bats and are known as a camp.


Often this species will be found in mixed camps with other flying fox species.


This species is active by night when they will fly out from their roost to find food. Females tend to travel further from the roost than males.


Individuals may become extremely vocal when fighting over food. Their call is a high-pitched squeal.


They can fly at an average rate of between 35 and 40km/h (22-25mph).


These animals have shown the ability to travel long distances with tagged individuals having moved from Papua New Guinea to the Australian mainland.


Males will mark out their territory using a secretion from the scapular gland.

Black Flying Fox (Pteropus alecto)

Credit: The Animal Facts

Predators and Threats

What stops the Black Flying Fox from surviving and thriving?

This species is considered common across its range. In some areas of Sulawesi the species is considered extinct having been hunted to extinction.

An increase in habitat modification including the resulting habitat destruction has caused declines in their population.

Like many flying foxes they are affected by the heat and extended periods of high temperatures can cause large numbers to die off especially young. This has a major effect on an animal which gives birth during the Australian summer.

Hunting has a major effect on populations in Indonesia with this species being used for food.

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Quick facts

The black flying fox is the largest species of flying fox on Earth.


These animals were first described for modern science in 1837.

Black Flying Fox (Pteropus alecto)

Credit: The Animal Facts

References

Little Aussie Battlers. 2022. Black Flying Fox. [online] Available at: <https://littleaussiebat.com.au/flying-fox-facts/> [Accessed 24 March 2022].

Wildlife.org.au. 2022. BLACK FLYING FOX | Wildlife Preservation Society Queensland. [online] Available at: <https://wildlife.org.au/black-flying-fox/?v=13b249c5dfa9> [Accessed 24 March 2022].

Tolga Bat Hospital. 2022. Black Flying Foxes. [online] Available at: <https://tolgabathospital.org/bats/black-flying-fox/> [Accessed 24 March 2022].

Qld.gov.au. 2022. Black flying-fox. [online] Available at: <https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/plants-animals/animals/living-with/bats/flying-foxes/roost-monitoring-locations/flying-fox-roost-monitoring-and-locations/black-flying-fox> [Accessed 24 March 2022].

The Australian Museum. 2022. Black Flying-fox. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/mammals/black-flying-fox/> [Accessed 24 March 2022].

Sydneybats.org.au. 2022. black flying-fox | sydneybats. [online] Available at: <https://sydneybats.org.au/flying-foxes/black-flying-fox/> [Accessed 24 March 2022].

Roberts, B., Eby, P., Tsang, S.M. & Sheherazade. 2017. Pteropus alectoThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T18715A22080057. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T18715A22080057.en. Accessed on 24 March 2022.

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