Flying Fox Facts
You will see Flying Foxes in the Central West from around October to April – some communities such as Bathurst and Cowra even have permanent camps in their towns. Flying Foxes are a temporary visitor to Gilgandra – they migrate from the top of Australia as far away as Melbourne every year – following the flowers that they feed on. Ecologists are reporting an increased number of Flying Foxes to our region this year.
There are four types of Flying Foxes native to Australia: Little Red Flying Fox, Grey-Headed Flying Fox, the Black Flying Fox and the Spectacled Flying Fox. All species of Flying Fox are protected by Australian law, however the Grey Headed Flying Fox and the Spectacled Flying Fox are listed as threatened species.
The Little Red and the Grey Headed Flying Foxes are known to visit our region from time to time – very little is known about the movements of flying foxes, research so far indicates that they come when there is an abundant food supply. This means that they might be here one year and not the next year or it might be a 10 year or even 25 year cycle – only the flying foxes know!
Little Reds diet consists mainly of nectar – they are loving the eucalypt flowering in our district this time of year. They select a nice shady tree to roost in during the day and at night can fly up to 50km away to feed dispersing 60,000 seeds every night - and are essential pollinators of our native flora!
Breeding cycle and habits
Little Reds have a different breeding cycle to other flying foxes. They are in our region during their mating season and they give birth to their “pups” in April/May each year. Flying foxes only give birth to one young per year and take two years to reach an age where they are mature enough to reproduce, this makes their species vulnerable to environmental events such as drought and bushfire because of their low population growth.
The main odour associated with flying foxes is the scent male flying foxes use to mark their territory and to attract females during the mating season.
You might think – why are they roosting in a Plane tree – these aren’t native trees? Flying Foxes are adapting to our urban environments. Humans have created and maintain some cool, well-watered, shady places in our towns and Flying Foxes are finding these are good places to hang out too.
Little Reds exhibit an unusual method of obtaining drinking water during dry periods, skimming a stream's surface to gather it onto their fur while they are in flight. Flying foxes are also effected by heat stress, this can seriously impact populations numbers, especially due to their low population growth.
Very little is known or understood about the migration of Flying Foxes and their epic annual journey north/south across Australia. Researchers don’t even understand how flying foxes know when their favourite plants are in flower or how they know where to find them.
You might ask "Why these animals are protected when there are so many of them?” Well, when they are visiting us in Gilgandra and the Central West there are less bats in the north and south of us. It’s like a great migration where all the animals are concentrated in one place for a period of time, following food and water sources as they journey across the landscape. This is what makes them a great seed dispersal species!