Flying foxes have an important ecological role because their feeding behaviour helps pollinate and disperse the seeds of native trees.
Flying foxes spread the pollen of valuable plants as they feed, so they play an important role in our environment. Some plants even rely on flying foxes to pollinate their species.
Flying-foxes are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. They have a good sense of smell and good eyesight. These senses enable them to find their way around and to find their food during the night – especially pale coloured fruit and flowers. Unlike the little bats, flying-foxes do not use echolocation.
Flying-foxes are very vocal. They use their voices to communicate about feeding areas and campsites. Flying-foxes make the most noise in the mating season because they are defending their territories.
Flying-fox campsites are usually on watercourses or near large bodies of water; these provide freshwater and help the flying-foxes find their way home after night feeding sessions.
Camps are important to flying foxes: the camp is where each flying-fox is born, raised, forms relationships and learns to survive.
Fascinating flying-fox facts
- Flying-foxes have great night vision: scientists suspect that they use the lights of townships to navigate their way to and from their feeding
- Flying-foxes are large bats (megabats) in the Order Chiroptera (meaning ‘hand-wing’). There are about 1100 species of bat worldwide, making up about 20 per cent of mammal species.
- Encourage flying-foxes to come to your backyard by planting Lillipillies, small Eucalypts such as the Plunket mallee, Eucalyptus curtisii; Bloodwood, Corymbia intermedia and other nectar-rich trees and shrubs.
- Flying-foxes often get caught on barbed-wire fences. Low-flying mother flying-foxes that are carrying babies are most vulnerable.
Health and safety
Never handle a flying-fox. Although only a small percentage of bats carry a disease (Australian Bat Lyssavirus) that can be passed to humans, only experienced and vaccinated bat handlers should touch flying-foxes and insectivorous bats.
Batty Boat Cruises
Batty Boat Cruises is one of Wildlife Queensland’s most successful public education initiatives. For more than 20 years, Batty Boat Cruises have introduced thousands of people every summer to the fascinating world of the flying-fox, or fruit bat.
Cruises generally run between October and March.
Each cruise takes passengers up the Brisbane River for an unforgettable wildlife experience.
Listen to expert commentary about flying-fox habits and other fascinating wildlife facts. Watch the landmarks slide past as you cruise at a leisurely pace through the ever-changing riverscape.
The boat pauses just before sunset at Norman Creek, summer home to breeding black, grey-headed and little red flying-foxes. As the sun sinks, silhouetted flying-foxes swirl into the darkening sky, snatching sips of river water before scattering to find food for themselves and their young in the flowering trees of Brisbane suburbs.
Find out more about Batty Boat Cruises.