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Flying Fox

Brett Dolsen flying fox
image: Brett Dolsen

Flying Foxes are the single most important animal for the survival of Australia’s eucalypt and rainforest ecosystems and are key for pollination and seed dispersal of many fruiting trees such as bananas, peaches, dates, carob, avocados, jack fruit, mango, guava, cashews, figs, durian and macadamia.

The grey-headed flying fox is one of the largest bats in the world and is only found in Australia. It is currently vulnerable to extinction under state and federal legislation with an estimated decline of more than 30% over the last three generations due to urban expansion and loss of native habitat. All flying-foxes are protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the New South Wales Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve

This reserve in Port Macquarie is the home to the largest flying-fox population in our local government area. Camp numbers are usually below 20,000 with some influxes over 100,000 in past years. This flying-fox community is managed in accordance with the Kooloonbung Creek Camp Management Plan adopted by Council in June 2019, which includes management actions to help alleviate the impacts on adjoining residents while ensuring the critical ecosystem functions they provide are conserved.

This plan was developed in line with the Australian Government’s Referral guideline for management actions in grey-headed and spectacled flying-fox camps and the Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus.

Friends of Kooloonbung Creek 

The Friends of Kooloonbung Creek are a volunteer group who help to look after the Kooloonung Creek Nature Reserve.  With support from Council's Natural Resources Management Team. They work in the reserve maintaining the bushland ecosystem and flying-fox camp area. They ensure the reserve is kept clear of litter and dumped rubbish, clear trees off pathways, remove weeds, repair vandalised boardwalks and other assets.

In 2020 the Friends helped plant 150 Broadleaf Paperbark trees (supplied by Port Macquarie Land Care Nursery) in the flying-fox camp area to assist regeneration of the defoliated trees.  You can follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Friends-Of-Kooloonbung-298756817171350

When can you see the flying-foxes?

You can watch the "fly out" at sunset each day when thousands of flying foxes leave the camp in search of food and water. The spectacular event can be viewed from Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve. When the weather is hot, flying foxes will often dip their bodies by skimming the water surface then licking their wet belly. 

Flying foxes have an important role

Flying Foxes are native mammals that roost by day and fly out at night to feed on trees nectar, flowers and fruits. They have excellent senses including eyesight and smell and can fly up to 100km to forage each night. They also perform an important role in pollination and seed dispersal, helping to ensure the health of native forests. A single flying fox can disperse up to 60,000 seeds in a single night. 

Flying foxes feed on flowers, nectar, fruits of Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, Banksia Lily Pilly, Figs and various other species of trees and shrubs. Some species of Native forest plants only flower at night and have evolved with nocturnal pollinators including flying foxes. Flying foxes can transport pollen for long distances and disperse large seeds.

Flying-fox species

  1. Black Flying-fox (BFF) is found throughout coastal areas from Shark Bay in Western Australia, across Northern Australia, down through Queensland and into NSW.  The BFF forages on the fruit and blossoms of native and introduced plants including orchard species at times. BFF are largely nomadic animals with movement and local distribution influenced by climatic variability and the flowering and fruiting patterns of their preferred food plants. Feeding commonly occurs within 20 km of the camp site. BFF usually roost beside a creek or river in a wide range of warm and moist habitats, including lowland rainforest gullies, coastal stringybark forests and mangroves. During the breeding season camp sizes can change significantly in response to the availability of food and the arrival of animals from other areas.
  2. The Grey-Headed Flying-fox (GHFF) is classified as a vulnerable species under state and commonwealth legislation. GHFF are found across eastern Australia, generally within 200 km's of the coast from Mackay to Melbourne, across South Australia and have been observed in Tasmania. GHFF requires foraging resources and camp sites within rainforests, open forests, closed and open woodlands (including melaleuca swamps and banksia woodlands). GHFF is also found throughout urban and agricultural areas where food trees exist and are known to raid orchards when other food is scarce.

    Koolonbung Creek is a maternity site for the GHFF. Mothers arrive to give birth and raise their babies. As this site is a maternity camp, it is likely that some individuals have a strong site fidelity returning year after year as part of seasonal migrations.

    GHFF in Australia are regarded as one population that moves around freely within its entire national range.

    • Can travel up to 100 km's in a single night
    • Can travel 500 km's over 48 hours when moving camp
    • Move south in spring and summer
    • Inhabit coastal forests of north-east NSW and south-east Queensland in winter. 
  3. The Little Red Flying-fox (LRFF) is widely distributed throughout northern and eastern Australia, with populations occurring across northern Australia and down the east coast into Victoria. The LRFF forages almost exclusively on nectar and pollen, although will eat fruit at times. The LRFF has the most nomadic distribution strongly influenced by availability of food resources (predominantly the flowering of eucalypt species) which means the duration of their stay in any one place is generally very short. LRFF travel south to visit the coastal areas of south-east Queensland and NSW during the summer months.

Flying-fox breeding times

The Grey headed flying-fox breeding is from January to March and into April/May. Black flying-fox breeding is from March and into April/May.

  • Males are sexually mature by 30 months and females by age two.
  • From January each mature male marks his territory in a tree with secretions from scent gland on his shoulders.  He defends it vigorously from other males with wing-spreading threat displays and loud calls.
  • Females chose a male and may stay with him for weeks or only a few days.
  • If a female moves to another camp where food is more plentiful she will roost in the territory of a male.
  • Mating behaviour begins in January – February and continues through to April – May when conception occurs.
  • Flying-foxes do not form lifelong relationships.

Little red flying foxes are not known to breed at Kooloonbung Creek or in Port Macquarie. 

The little red flying-fox gives birth at a different time to the others and tends to follow the flowering of the eucalypts inland, moving to the coast irregularly.

  • Little red flying foxes form large camps for mating that can include up to 100,000 individuals.
  • Mating occurs November–January and young are born in April and May.
  • Males have harems of two to five females in small defended territories.
  • Young begin to fly at two months.
  • Female cares for young for several months while they develop the basic skills of finding food.

Flying-fox babies from September to November.

  • Grey-headed flying-foxes give birth to young in September to October and rear young for 3 – 6 months.
  • Black flying-foxes breed slightly later giving birth generally in October to December and rear young for 3-6 months
  • Little-red flying-foxes some 5 – 6 months earlier with birth of young in April to May.
  • The pup clings to its mother’s belly for the first three to six weeks and feeds on her milk for five to six months.
  • After six weeks, pups are left together in a crèche (like a day-care) in the roost while their mother looks for food throughout the night. When she returns she recognises her baby by its call, which is why a higher trill can often be heard in sections of a roost.
  • From three months old young flying-foxes are capable of flying short distances and from five to six months old are able to feed independently.
  • During the first three months, young cannot move themselves from perceived danger and can be abandoned by their mother if stressed, which is why Port Macquarie-Hastings Council where possible avoids management actions during this critical period.

 

This page was last updated on: 04 March 2021