November 10, 2015 Mammals No Comments

(Pteropus poliocephalus)

Grey-Headed flying foxes. Photo © Vivien Jones

Grey-Headed flying foxes.
Image © Vivien Jones


The grey-headed flying fox was the first Australian flying fox species discovered by Europeans. The first grey-headed flying fox specimen was reported as collected in New Holland and described by Temminck in 1825.

Their numbers have declined drastically since European colonisation from many millions to a few hundred thousand. The known range for grey-headed flying foxes has contracted southwards by about 750 km and their southern limit during winter has expanded into Victoria.

They are the largest Australian fruit bat and are endemic to Australia. Grey-headed flying foxes have sophisticated vocal communication, making more than 30 specific calls.


  • Grey-headed flying foxes are the only flying fox species with a collar of orange/brown fur that fully encircles the head.
  • Grey-headed flying foxes are the only species with fur right down their legs to the toes.
  • Average weight 600–1000g.
  • Head–body length 230-290mm.
  • Head covered in grey fur.
  • Belly fur grey with flecks of white or ginger.
  • Back fur can be dark grey or can have silver or frosted appearance (might be related to age/moult/subpopulation).


  • Live in a large variety of habitats, occur in the rainforest, mangroves, paperbark swamps, wet and dry sclerophyll forests and cultivated areas.


Life history
  • Long-lived, the average age of reproduction is 6–10 years.
  • Generally, have one offspring a year.
  • Mating begins January–March.
  • Pregnant females congregate in maternity camps a couple of weeks before giving birth in September–October after a gestation period of 6 months.
  • Females carry young while they forage for the first three weeks of life.
  • After the first three weeks, young are left at the camp while females forage at dusk. The females find their young by scent when they return to camp.
  • Forage on fruits and blossoms of more than 80 species of plants. Prefer eucalypt blossom with native figs being the most popular fruit.
  • Chew leaves and appear to eat the salt glands from mangroves.
  • They also forage in gardens, parks and orchards and may fly many kilometres from roost site to feed, some round trips are about 30 km.
  • Congregate in large camps of up to 200,000 individuals from early until late summer.
  • Camp populations can include grey-headed, little red and black flying foxes.
  • Camps commonly formed in gullies and close to water.
Home range
  • Nightly feeding range of 20-50km from camp.
  • In winter, adults can migrate up to 750km from their summer camps.


  • Occurs along the east coast of Australia from Rockhampton to western Victoria and inland to the western slopes.


  • Habitat loss
  • Disturbance of roosting sites
  • Unregulated shooting
  • Powerlines and barbed wire fences
  • Domestic dogs

Fascinating grey-headed flying fox facts

Grey-headed flying foxes in NSW have a diverse diet comprising at least 54 flower species (nectar and pollen), and 48 fruit species from subtropical rainforest. They mostly eat nectar and pollen from eucalypt woodlands and forests, but some individuals eat mainly blossom and others select mainly fruit.

Some Greys stay permanently in one camp; others will travel widely between camps to feed on irregularly flowering eucalypts. Two young adult males tracked over 10 months made round trips of at least 2000 km, transiting 6–15 camps.


  • Federally listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

More information

  • Hall, L. & Richards, R. (2000). Flying-foxes and fruit and blossom bats of Australia. Australian Natural History Series. UNSW Press.
  • Menkhorst, P. & Knight, F. (2004) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press.

Written by Wildlifeqld