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Black flying-fox

Black flying-fox  Photo: EHP

Black flying-fox Photo: EHP

Common name: black flying-fox

Scientific name: Pteropus alecto

Family: Pteropodidae

Conservation status: This species is listed as Least Concern in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and is ranked as a low priority under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Back on Track species prioritisation framework.

Description: A large flying-fox, this species grows to approximately 26 cm and can weigh up to 1000 g. They have short black fur over their entire body and sometimes the fur on their neck may be reddish.

Habitat and distribution: This species is common to the coastal and  near coastal areas of northern Australia from Shark Bay in Western Australia to Lismore in New South Wales. It is also found in New Guinea and Indonesia. Black flying-foxes are found on mangrove islands in river estuaries, paperbark swamps, eucalypt forests and rainforest.

The black flying-fox has a general home range of 15-30 km radius. Food availability largely dictates their feeding range.

Life history and behaviour

Black flying-foxes mate in autumn, giving birth to a single off-spring in late winter or spring, when lots of trees are in bloom and there's plenty of fruit to feed mum. Baby bats are carried by their mothers, gripping fur and nipples to stay on board. At 18 months old a black flying-fox is mature and females are ready to breed at 2-3 years of age.

A loud high-pitched squabble high in a tree can indicate black flying-foxes fighting over the best eucalypt blossoms, or raiding ripening mangoes. While they prefer flowers from eucalypt, paperbark and turpentine trees, they will eat other native and introduced blossoms and fruit.

The black flying-fox feeds at night, finding its food by sight and smell, and by following other bats. During the day, it gathers with thousands of other bats (even with other Pteropus species) in roosting camps in dense foliage.

Related information

Hall, LS and Richards, GC 2000. Flying-foxes: fruit and blossom bats of Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.

Menkhorst, P and Knight, F 2001. A field guide to mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria.

Strahan, R 1983. The Australian Museum complete book of Australian mammals.Angus and Robertson Publishers, Sydney, New South Wales.

Listen

Listen to an audio clip of the black flying-fox (MP3 audio file, 136K)†

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Last updated
2 August 2011