Bats or flying foxes picture

They are called bats, megabats, fruit bats and flying foxes – it’s all the same animal.  This is confusing because they are no relation to foxes, fruit is not usually their main food, and they are very different from other members of the bat family.  The bat family can be divided approximately into two groups: the megabats (flying foxes are megabats) and microbats (the little ones that are talked about in stories from Europe and USA).  Flying foxes do not occur naturally in Europe or USA, so all those spooky bat stories have nothing to do with our flying foxes.

In many ways flying foxes are more biologically similar to monkeys and humans than they are to the microbats.  They do not use sound, or, echolocation to “see” but have excellent eyesight like ours in daylight and they see better than we do at night.  They do not hibernate in winter, as is common with microbats.  Most of them prefer to roost in trees and avoid caves and buildings, so will not come into your house, as do micros.  They are principally vegetarian, whereas microbats commonly eat insects.  They certainly do not suck blood like the “vampire” bats that are found in Central America.  There are more differences but these are some of the obvious ones.

Maybe they are called fruit bats because they look like dark fruit hanging in trees.  Unfortunately this name gives the impression that they are big fruit eaters but in fact these in Bellingen concentrate more on nectar and pollen.  People are just more likely to notice what they are eating when it is fruit, because we like to eat fruit too.

Most of the flying foxes on Bellingen Island are the species called Greyheaded Flying fox, and these are found only in Australia.  However the numbers of Black Flying foxes is increasing.  Ten years ago Black Flying foxes were rare summer visitors from their more northerly range but now you can always find some of them roosting in Bellingen.  This is part of a general pattern of the Black species spreading southwards.

Little red Flying foxes visit occasionally in summer when food supplies are short in their inland range.  Australia’s fourth main type, the Spectacled Flying fox,is never found naturally this far south of its North Queensland range.

 

three species

       Three species:  Greyheaded, Black and Little red Flying foxes.

 

If you enjoy scientifically exact names you may like to know that these bats are of the order Chiroptera, which means hand wing.  They are Pteropus poliocephalus, or Greyheaded, the Blacks are called Pteropus Alecto, the Little reds are Pteropus Scapulatus and the Spectacled are Pteropus conspicillatus.

 

Flying Fox in Flight

 

Flying Fox Face

All photographs and text are subject to copyright Vivien Jones ©2000

E-mail: viv@bellingen.com
Phone: 02 6655 2213

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