Little red flying-fox

© Canva NFP

The little flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus) is the most widespread species of megabat in Australia. It is 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.

Quick facts

COMMON NAME:
Little red flying-fox

SCIENTIFIC NAME:
Pteropus scapulatus 

FAMILY:
Pteropodidae

QLD CONSERVATION STATUS:
Least Concern

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.

Little red flying-fox© Canva NFP

Did you know?

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.

Little red flying-fox© Jim McLean

Threats to little red flying-foxes

  • Habitat loss
  • Powerlines
  • Barbed-wire fences: Little red flying-foxes fly low and are frequently caught on fences only a metre or so off the ground.

 

Home range

  • Little red flying-foxes only travel 20–30 km from camp to feed.

Distribution

  • As nomads, they range a long distance inland, depending on the availability of flowering trees.
  • They have a wide distribution, being found in northern and eastern Australia including Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. 
  • Have been recorded in South Australia.

Description

  • 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.
  • The 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 300–600 g.
  • Head-body length 125–200mm.

Habitat

  • Broad range of habitats that include semi-arid areas to tropical and temperate eucalypt forests, paperbark swamps and monsoon forests.

Ecology

Life history and behaviour

  • 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.

Breeding

  • Little red flying-foxes form large camps for mating that can include up to 100,000 individuals.
  • Mating occurs between 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.
  • The female cares for its young for several months while they develop the basic skills of finding food.

Food

  • Prefer nectar, especially eucalypt, bloodwood and angophera nectar.
  • Will eat fruit, sap and insects and cultivated fruit when other resources are unavailable.

More information

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.

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