Grey-Headed Flying Fox Fact File
The grey-headed flying fox is Australia's largest species of bat. They may measure between 23 and 29cm (9 and 11in) long. Their weight averages 1kg (2.2lbs).
Their body is covered by grey fur across the main portion of the body with lighter grey fur on the head from which their name is derived. Separating the body and head is a collar of light-brownish fur. The fur on the legs extends to the ankle.
On either side of the body are the black wing membranes which give them a total wingspan of 1m (3.2ft) across.
They have a dark brown eye.
These animals are considered herbivores. Their diet includes fruit from a range of native and introduced trees along with nectar and pollen from flowering trees.
They may forage in farms or other cultivated areas.
Grey-headed flying foxes are viewed as a keystone species in the Australian ecosystem due to the important role which they serve in spreading seeds.
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Australia is the native home of the grey-headed flying fox. Here they can be found along the East coast from Queensland down through New South Wales and in to Victoria. Their range is within close reach of the shoreline not extending far inland.
The northern portion of their range has reduced in size over the last century.
A new camp established in Adelaide, South Australia in 2010. Before this there had been occasional visits by the species to the region but they would typically return to the eastern states.
The establishment of this population is thought to have been driven by a reduction in food sources in the eastern states.
The grey-headed flying fox will make its home in subtropical or temperate forests, schlerophyll forest, woodland, heath and swamps.
Many populations can be found in cities where they can make their home in parklands.
Mating takes place starting from January though to May. Males will attract females by emitting a smelly substance from a gland located between the shoulders on to trees. Females are attracted to the smell and mate with the male with the best scent.
The pups will be born in October or November with only a single pup being born.
Mother's will carry their pups for the first three weeks of their life. They have strong claws to help cling on.
As the pups grow they become too large for the female to carry and at this point they leave them with the other pups at the camp in special creches.
By three months old the pups can fly and between 5 and 6 months old they wean off milk and feed for themselves.
Hybridization with the black flying fox (Pteropus alecto) is possible and is an increasing threat to their survival.
Groups known as camps may include tens of thousands of members. These camps may be mixed with the black or little-red flying fox.
Grey-headed flying foxes are active by night. Their day is spent hanging upside down from a tree or other structure. They may travel up to 50km each night as they look for food.
These animals are incredibly vocal creating up to 20 different calls to communicate with one another.
As a flying fox they do not use ultrasound to communicate. Instead they have a keen sense of smell and sight which allow them to find their food.
Predators and Threats
Heat stress is a major contribution to mortality in grey-headed flying foxes.
Humans have affected the population of grey-headed flying foxes though habitat destruction and the removal of foraging areas. Entanglement within netting intended to prevent their access to fruit has also proved a major threat. They may also become caught on barbed wire which damages their fragile wing membrane and reduces their ability to fly.
Grey-headed flying foxes are commonly referred to as fruit bats.
They are one of the four fruit bats to call Australia home.
Bats are considered to be the only mammal which is capable of sustaining flight.
The reason bats can hang upside down for so long without becoming dizzy is that they do not have enough weight for gravity to affect their blood flow.
Andrew Mercer (www.baldwhiteguy.co.nz), CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
City of Adelaide. 2021. Grey-headed Flying-foxes in Adelaide. [online] Available at: <https://www.cityofadelaide.com.au/about-adelaide/our-sustainable-city/biodiversity/grey-headed-flying-fox/> [Accessed 16 April 2021].
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