© Bruce Thomson
The black flying-fox (Pteropus alecto) has the largest body size of the four mainland species of flying-fox in Australia — up to approximately 26 cm, and can weigh up to 1000 g. The species was first described by Temminck in 1837 from a specimen from Menado, Indonesia. In 1867, Peters described a black flying-fox from Rockhampton.
QLD CONSERVATION STATUS:
How we help flying-foxes
Every summer for more than 30 years, Wildlife Queensland’s Batty Boat Cruises have introduced thousands of people to the fascinating world of flying-foxes. This successful education initiative provides an opportunity for everyone to see flying-foxes in their natural habitat and learn why they are so important to our environment. Proceeds from the cruises fund bat conservation and support bat carers within Queensland.
Did you know?
The black flying-fox can fly at 35 – 40 kilometres per hour.
Threats to black flying-foxes
- Habitat loss
- Unregulated shooting for crop protection
- Powerlines and barbed-wire fences
- Groups will travel up to 50 km from their camps to foraging areas and will use the same camp for many years.
- Black flying-foxes are found around the northern coast of Australia and inland wherever permanent water is found in rivers.
- Jet black fur but some variation does occur
- Chocolate-brown patch of fur is often seen on the back of its neck and shoulders
- Brownish fur around eyes and on face
- Some have frosting of greyish tips all over their body, particularly on the belly
- The lower leg is unfurred
- Wingspan about 1m
- Average weight of 500–1000g
- Head–body length 230–280mm
- Wide range of habitats of tropical and subtropical forests and woodlands.
Life history and behaviour
- Black flying-foxes can live up to 20 years in the wild.
- During the day, black flying-foxes roost on tree branches in camps and fly out at dusk to feed.
- Main camps form in summer and may contain tens to hundreds of thousands of individuals, depending on local food availability.
- Can hold and manipulate food with clawed thumbs.
- They will wrap their wings around themselves if cold or wet.
- In southern Queensland, adults mate in March and April. Females become pregnant before dispersing for the winter months.
- Congregate into camps from early to late summer where the young are born and raised.
- Young are carried by the female until about 4 weeks of age and then left at the roost while the mother forages at night.
- Young begin to fly at 8 weeks of age but depend on their mothers for at least 3 months.
- Fly out at dusk to feed on blossoms and fruits.
- They prefer the blossom of eucalypts, paperbarks and turpentines, as well as a variety of other native and introduced blossoms and fruits.
- They have been seen to eat the leaves of trees by chewing the leaves into a bolus, swallowing the liquid and then spitting out the fibre.
Publications & papers
- 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.