Bellingen Island is an excellent place to see and watch Greyheaded Flying foxes. Black Flying foxes can be seen here too, though in much smaller numbers, and occasionally Little Red Flying foxes visit.
Many hang low in the trees in this camp and are in clear view, and often they do not fly away as you approach. They are less flighty here than in many camps because they have been treated well here by humans for a number of years. They seem to know how they will be treated in different camps. Thus they will stay to stare back at you here if you are quiet. They are not much worried by your voice but the sound of snapping branches means danger in their language. Slapping or clapping sounds are also alarming and usually send them off out of view.
The animals roosting near the picnic tables are most used to people. If you stay here for a while, reasonably still and quiet, they will continue their normal activities while you watch.
WHY THEY DONíT STAND UP
THEY ARE OUR COUSINS
Where we have cleared away their native forests they are forced to resort to trees that humans plant for their own use. Records show that appearances of flying foxes in orchards coincide with times when bee keepers report poor availability of blossom in the forests. But they are animals which take opportunities Ė they enjoy the native shrubs and trees that we plant in our gardens.
The mother will carry baby with her constantly for the first few weeks. When he can keep himself warm she will leave him in the camp at night. She leaves him in the spot where she has been roosting all day unless there has been danger in the area such as a lurking goanna. During the day she will carry him around when she makes short flights within the camp, but she can also carry him long distances, even when he is two or three months old. She needs to be able to do this because she needs to be able to move to wherever food can be found. She will carry her baby to the next camp, then the next and the next, and can do this from the first night after the baby is born til the time when the baby can fly well enough to feed himself. This will be later in January, at least. It is particularly enjoyable in late December and in January to watch the babies around the edges of the camp at dusk, practising their flying.
Baby riding. See mother’s nipple in her wingpit
These changes have nothing to do with the total number of flying foxes in Australia. Simply, the animals follow food supplies so if we have large numbers here it is because local forests are in blossom with good food so animals have congregated here and other areas will be empty. They can move great distances in surprisingly short times. Recently an animal is known to have travelled from Sydney to Melbourne in one week.The animals typically move from one traditional campsite to the next. They appear to have long memories for these traditional sites and may even have their own territory in each one that they visit. The females move about more than the males, generally
HEADING FOR EXTINCTION
The population will always be limited by the food supply in their habitat, and we are constantly clearing their habitat because we like to live in the same places. Loss of habitat is glaringly obvious in the NSW and Queensland coastal strips where there has been huge human settlement.
The fact that flying foxes are slow breeders, producing only one baby each year is not primarily relevant to the survival of the species because the habitat is the limiting factor. No matter how many babies are produced in a year only the number that can be fed in their habitat will survive. If you want to do something towards survival of the species, plant native feed trees.
photographs and text are subject to copyright Vivien Jones ©2000