Flying Fox Bat: Habitat & Facts

Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson, we'll be learning not about foxes, but large bats aptly named the flying foxes for their size and appearance. We'll learn about their habitat and special adaptations for their nocturnal lifestyle.

What Are Flying Foxes?

Picture visiting the east coast of Australia for the first time. You're excited to see the wildlife and your first stop is the forests in Queensland. Reaching your first camp with your guide, dusk has fallen and a beautiful sunset appears before you. Suddenly, a large flying mammal swoops into your camp. You see several more in the distance as these nocturnal creatures wake for the night. With a wingspan of over six feet, this animal looks literally like a small fox swooping through the air.

However, foxes haven't evolved flight in Australia yet. This creature is a type of bat called the flying fox bat. Although they are keen flyers at night, during the day they spend their time resting in large camps of thousands of individuals.

These are not fruits hanging from the trees in Australia but rather flying fox bats at camp
flying fox camp

Flying fox bats belong to the family of megabats, aptly named as they can grow quite large, with a wingspan of over six feet. There are four species of megabats that live in Australia and surrounding islands.

1. Grey-Headed Flying Fox Bats

The grey-headed flying fox bat is the one of largest flying fox bats. Their wings stretch over three feet wide, although they weigh a meager two pounds. While this might seem like a problem, their light weight makes them perfectly adapted for long periods of flight. These bats are named for their grey head, which is in contrast to an orange collar and dark brown fur.

Grey headed flying fox bats can be recognized by their tufts of orange fur
grey headed flying fox bat

To get our weekly groceries, humans might travel only a few miles to their local grocery store. However, this is not the case for the grey-headed flying fox bat. This animal travels large distances of up to 30 miles to find food at night, which consists of a diet mainly of fruit, particularly figs. They eat so much fruit that some people refer to flying foxes as fruit bats.

Habitat

The grey-headed flying fox bat can be found in forests, wooded areas, and coastal mangroves of northeastern Australia. Although they like to live in colonies of thousands, their habitats are being destroyed by human development, limiting their range. As a result of this human conflict, the grey-headed flying fox bat is moving into urban areas, and can be seen at night flying through cities instead of their natural wooded homes.

2. Little Red Flying Fox Bats

A reddish brown fur covers the little red flying fox bat, although some individuals may also be light brown. This bat also has large wings, growing up to three feet but still weighing less than half a pound.

Everyone is fond of the beautiful blooms that come with spring weather. However, the little red flying fox bat takes this appreciation to a new level. Millions of this species of bat come out at night to forage on eucalyptus blooms. Unlike other mega bats, these bats prefer the nectar of flowers to the fruit that results from them. They love eucalyptus nectar so much that they can been seen migrating long distances throughout the night to follow the flowers.

A little red flying fox bat at camp during the day
little red flying fox bat

Habitat

As humans, we like to settle down in a home and live there for many years. Whether leasing an apartment or buying a house, we prefer a permanent shelter. The little red flying fox bat takes a different approach, however, and lives a highly nomadic lifestyle, flying up to 15 miles each night and hundreds of miles between camp sites.

3. Spectacled Flying Fox Bat

More similar to the human lifestyle, the spectacled flying fox bat prefers a smaller habitat range, living only in a few areas along the coast of northern Queensland, Australia, New Guinea, and surrounding islands. Named for tufts of pale fur around its eyes, which appear like glasses or spectacles, this bat weighs only 1.8 pounds.

Spectacled flying fox bat
spectacled flying fox bat

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