Little red flying foxes are the most widespread species of megabats in Australia and the only species of Australian flying fox that regularly roosts in clusters – up to 30 have been seen hanging together in a tight bunch. The weight of their clusters can cause severe damage to their roost trees.
Little red flying foxes are nomadic and their movements depend on food resources. Peters first described the little red flying fox in 1862, from a specimen collected on Cape York.
- Little red flying foxes vary in colour from reddish brown to light brown, and there are patches of light, creamy, brown fur where the wing membrane and shoulder meet.
- Head is covered with greyish fur and, in some forms found in northern Queensland, grey fur continues down the back.
- Wings are brown and semi-transparent when seen flying during the day. This helps identify the species.
- Average weight 300–600g.
- Head-body length125–200mm.
- Broad range of habitats that include semi-arid areas to tropical and temperate eucalypt forests, paperbark swamps and monsoon forests.
- Little red flying foxes form large camps for mating that can include up to 100,000 individuals.
- Mating occurs November–January, young are born in April and May.
- Males have harems of two to five females in small, defended territories.
- Young begin to fly at two months.
- Female cares for young for several months while they develop the basic skills of finding food.
- Prefer nectar – especially eucalypt, bloodwood and angophera nectar.
- Will eat fruit, sap and insects and cultivated fruit when other resources are unavailable.
- In northern Australia, little red flying foxes sometimes leave their roost sites before dark and feed during the day on overcast wet season days.
- Often crash land in trees and need to climb a tree limb to take off again.
- Efficient climbers that use their jointed thumbs as well as feet to climb about.
- Prefer to roost near the ground.
- Only travel 20–30km from camp to feed.
- Little red flying foxes from Shark Bay in Western Australia round the north coast to Queensland and south to northern Victoria.
- Have been recorded in South Australia.
- As nomads they range a long distance inland, depending on the availability of flowering trees.
In order of severity:
- Habitat loss
- Barbed-wire fences – little red flying foxes fly low and are frequently caught on fences only a metre or so off the ground.
- Listed as Lower Risk Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Fascinating little red flying fox fact
Little reds are the only flying fox in the world that eats almost exclusively nectar. Their tongues have even evolved differently from other flying foxes to be more similar to the tongues of nectar-feeding birds, such as honey-eaters.
- 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.