Grey-headed flying fox

Pteropus poliocephalus

 

The Grey-headed Flying-fox is found in urban areas, forests, woodlands and inter-tidal mangroves across eastern Australia, including Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It is one of the largest bats in Australia with a wingspan of over 1 m.

Federally listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Grey-headed flying foxes are endemic to Australia, fossils show that Flying-foxes have been a part of the Australian night sky for more than 35 million years.  Making more than 30 specific calls they have sophisticated vocal communication.  

Although Grey-headed Flying Foxes are usually seen in large camps, numbers have rapidly declined over a relatively short period of time due to habitat clearing. This should be of great concern to all of us!  

Did you know that Flying-foxes are known as keystone species? A keystone species is an organism that helps define an entire ecosystem. Without its keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether. Keystone species have low functional redundancy which means that if the species were to disappear from the ecosystem, no other species would be able to fill its ecological niche.

Flying-foxes are crucial to keeping native forests healthy. They pollinate many of our native plants by carrying pollen from plant-to-plant when feeding and spread seeds through their droppings. Because flying-foxes are highly mobile, seeds can be moved locally and over great distances. When seeds are able to germinate away from their parent plant, they have a greater chance of surviving and growing into a mature plant. Seed dispersal also expands the gene pool within forests. Mature trees then share their genes with neighbouring trees of the same species and this transfer strengthens forests against environmental changes.

At night the Grey-headed Flying-fox flies out from the camp in search of food. It may travel 50 km to a particular area in search of fruit from a range of native and introduced species, particularly figs, for this reason it is often referred to as ‘Fruit Bat’. It also feeds on nectar and pollen from native trees, in particular Eucalypt trees.

Female Grey-headed Flying-foxes give birth in September or October to one pup ( twins are rare)  The pup clings to mums teat, located in her wing pit, with special curved milk teeth,  and grip her fur with its strong claws for the first three weeks. As the pup grows larger, it becomes too heavy to carry when she flies out at night to feed, it is then left behind with other pups in a special ‘crèche’ in the maternity camp. When the pup is about 10 weeks old it is able to fly and by five to six months old it begins to feed independently.

 

Reference:

National geographic Resource Library | Article

Role of Keystone Species in an Ecosystem

Qld.gov. environment Importance of flying-foxes