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by Jessica Toreto

Foxes that fly? What? Nooo!

Flying foxes are gentle giants with a misleading name. They are bats! Yes, the largest bats on earth and the only mammals capable of active and sustained flight.

Flying-foxes establish noisy daytime camps in trees where they hang totally exposed. If you are lucky, or know where to look, you can enjoy watching these thrilling large bats socialising in their treetop camps. And when the night comes, it is time to fly out to look for food. Watch a flying-fox flyout here:

Read about the interesting upside-down life of these amazing mega-bats.

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Pteropus poliocephalus hanging

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FACT 1. They are masters of pollination

Flying foxes play an important role in pollination and seed dispersal.

Their food is seasonal, these mammals are always travelling in pursuit of food. As a result, they spread seeds everywhere they go, contributing to the spread of new plant’s. The seeds contained in the faeces fall and germinate in new areas where they grow into new trees. They love to eat flowers, and by nuzzling into flowers from different trees they carry pollen to help pollinate the tree.
The eucalyptus forests in Australia rely on them to reproduce.

 

Pteropus poliocephalus interesting roosting position

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FACT 2. Flying foxes use their wings as air-conditioning

A flying-fox’s wings are not only for sustained flight– they also work as a fan.

These big bats are smart creatures, and they take advantage of their large wings to cool themselves in high temperatures.

On hot days, a whole colony of 20,000 flying foxes can be seen fluttering their wings to cool their bodies.

Grey-headed Flying Fox looking at camera

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FACT 3. They live in a community

It is rare to spot a flying fox alone in the daytime. It is common to see up to 50 flying foxes hanging together from one small branch. They usually establish their camps in tall and dense vegetation.
Prior to leaving camp for the night, they circle and wheel around the community as a form of information transfer or warm up. Eventually the first animal leaves the camp, and all the others will follow.

Read more about flying-fox communities here. 

Little Red Flying fox bats daytime roost

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FACT 4. Flying foxes like city living

Nowadays in Australia is very common to see colonies of flying foxes roosting in cities, where people live and work.

Smart as they are, flying-fox bats have noticed some advantages in establishing camps near humans: they are safer from humans who might shoot or harass them, they have a more reliable food resource from people’s well-watered garden plants, and they also make use of street lights at night as a navigational aid.

Megabats roosting East Gippsland Victoria

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FACT 5. They are good swimmers

It seems strange, but flying foxes are good swimmers.

If they accidentally land in water, they will swim to the bank or to a tree, and climb until they gain sufficient height to take off. Flying foxes can’t take off only from flat ground – they need to gain some height before they can use the wind under their wings to take off. This may be the reason they learned how to swim.

Grey-headed Flying-fox flying daytime

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FACT 6. Flying-foxes are loyal residents

Australian flying-foxes are loyal to the camps where they were born.

Camps are extremely important for these animals. It is a safe bedroom, a place to socialise and meet a mate, and it also acts as maternity place hospital, child care centre and school, where breeding, rearing of young and education takes place.

Camp sites where young are born become especially significant to those animals, and they continue to return to the camp, possibly for the rest of their lives.

Grey-headed Flying-fox with baby
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We usually see three species of flying-foxes on our Maximum Wildlife tour: Grey-headed Flying-fox in East Gippsland, Little Red and Black Flying-foxes in the Northern Territory Top End.

flying-fox daytime camp

 

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