Black Flying-fox B G Thomson/www.auswildlife.com

Black Flying-fox

Pteropus alecto

Did You Know?

  • It can live for up to 20 years in the wild
  • It can fly at 35 – 40 kilometres per hour
  • Often shares its camps with the Grey-headed Flying-fox
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Almost completely black with a rusty-red or chocolate-brown patch at the back of its head and on its neck. Its fur can be tipped with grey, particularly on its belly. It has no fur on its lower legs.

Size

23 – 28 cm head and body length, wingspan over 1 m.

Behaviour

Call

Loud, high-pitched squabbling.

Diet

It prefers pollen and nectar from eucalypt blossoms, paperbarks and turpentine trees; however, it may also eat other native and introduced flowers and fruit, including mangoes, when native foods are scarce. It has also been seen feeding on leaves by chewing them, swallowing the liquid and then spitting out the fibre.

Movement

During the day it roosts on tree branches in large groups known as camps. Main camps form during summer and their size varies depending on the availability of local food. It leaves the camp at dusk to feed, finding its food by sight and smell, and by following other bats. The groups can travel over 50 km to feed and will use the same camp for many years.

Breeding

Mating occurs in autumn and the female gives birth in late winter or spring when food is abundant. The young are carried by their mothers until they are about four weeks old when they are left at the roost while their mothers forage at night. They begin to fly when they are eight weeks old but remain dependent on their mothers for at least three months.

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What to Observe

  • Presence

  • Courting/Mating

  • Young attached to mother

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When and Where

When To Look

  • At night, when they are feeding
  • From August through to April
  • Mating occurs in autumn (around March and April)
  • Young flying-foxes can be seen attached to their mother’s bellies from late winter through spring

Where To Look

  • Around the northern coast of Australia, from the Bellinger River (near Coffs Harbour) in NSW, north through Queensland and the Northern Territory, to Shark Bay in Western Australia
  • Also found inland, wherever there is permanent water in rivers, and may be extending its range south in NSW
  • In a wide range of tropical and subtropical forests and woodlands, particularly in mangroves, paperbark swamps and patches of rainforest
  • Look for roosting sites in coastal mangroves and woodlands
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What Else?

Similar Species

Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) is smaller in size, lighter in colour and has fur all the way down its legs.

Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicullatus) has distinctive straw-coloured fur which surrounds its eyes, with varying amounts also on its shoulders and head.