Megabats and Microbats
Grey-headed flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus
The species that we are most likely to tend to is the Grey-headed flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus, the largest megabat in Australia. The Grey-headed flying-fox is endemic to the south-eastern forested areas of Australia, principally east of the Great Dividing Range.
This flying-fox has an adult weight from 600 to 1,000g. The females are smaller than the males, and they have a dark grey body and a head that can be dark grey to almost white. The neck collar is rust/reddish-golden brown fur. It is unique amongst bats of the genus Pteropus in that fur on the legs extends to the ankle.
The species consume nectar, pollen and/or fruit of many plant species. These include Eucalyptus and fruits from a wide range of rainforest trees, including members of the fig tree. Grey-headed flying-foxes, along with the three other Australian flying-fox species, fulfil a critical ecological role by dispersing the pollen and seeds of a wide range of native Australian plants. The Grey-headed flying-fox is the only mammalian nectarivore and frugivore to occupy substantial areas of subtropical rainforests, so it is of crucial importance to those forests.
Grey-headed flying foxes are exposed to several threats, including:
loss of foraging and roosting habitat
competition with the black flying fox
and mass die-offs caused by extreme temperature events
Grey-headed flying-foxes are sometimes perceived as a nuisance when present in urban environments. Cultivated orchard fruits are also taken, but only at times when other food items are scarce. As their roosting and foraging habits bring the species into conflict with humans, they suffer from direct killing of animals in orchards and harassment and destruction of roosts.
Flying-foxes often come to the attention of Wildlife Rescue South Coast when reported as injured, sick, orphaned, or abandoned. A very high proportion of adult flying-fox injuries are caused by entanglement in barbed wire fences or loose, improperly erected fruit tree netting, both of which can result in very serious injuries and a slow, agonising death for the animal if not rescued quickly.
Baby flying-foxes usually come into care after having been separated from their mothers. Babies are often orphaned from four to six weeks of age when they inadvertently fall off their mothers during flight. When they are older, orphans usually come into care because of maternal death from power line electrocution or barbed wire entanglement. A young flying-fox must be fed every four hours, and then as it develops, it is introduced to blossoms and fruit. When the young flying-fox is fully weaned, at approximately 10 to 12 weeks of age, it goes into a crèche for rehabilitation and eventual release.
Black flying-fox Pteropus alecto
Black flying-foxes distribution is primarily Northern Australia from northern New South Wales around to Shark Bay in Western Australia. However, they have been found in mid to south NSW and Victoria.
This flying fox has an adult weight of approximately 590 to 880g. The females are smaller than the males. Their fur is black and may have a reddish-brown mantle on the back of their neck. The tummy fur may sometimes have white-tipped fur, giving a frosted appearance. Some may also have faint reddish/brown eye rings.
Unlike the Grey-headed flying-fox, the Black flying-fox has no fur on its lower leg from the knee downwards.
Little red flying-fox Pteropus scapulatus
Little red flying-foxes are distributed from northern Victoria up to Queensland and across to Shark Bay in Western Australia, with a number also being located in South Australia.
They are nomadic, and their range covers quite a distance inland depending upon the availability of flowering trees.
This species may congregate in large camps, and in some instances numbers in the range of 1,000,000 have been estimated.
This flying fox has an adult weight of approximately 200 to 500g. Their fur is reddish-brown with some having grey coloured fur on their head which may extend down their backs. Some may also have a light cream patch where the wing membrane meets the shoulders. Their legs have very fine fur or may even be naked.
Most microbats feed on insects.
The distinctions between microbats and megabats are:
Microbats use echolocation
Megabats lack a tail, whereas this trait only occurs in certain species of microbats.
The ears of microbats are respectively larger than megabat ears as opposed to a flying-fox.
Megabat eyes are quite large, whereas microbat eyes are relatively smaller.
Microbats go into care for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common reasons are:
They have been disturbed whilst in torpor (a mini-hibernation)
Their roosting place has been disturbed or destroyed
- They have been caught by a cat
They have become entangled in a strong spider web or
They have flown into a house while chasing insects
If you would like to try and entice microbats into your yard (as stated they eat bugs and mosquitoes), have you thought about putting up a bat box?