Gray-headed flying fox

Grey-headed Flying Fox

Pteropus poliocephalus

DID YOU KNOW?

This is the largest bat in Australia and can live for 30 years.

Exhibit Name and Location:
Baltimore - Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes

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Grey-headed Flying Fox

The flying fox looks very much like the canine creature for which it is named. The grey head is visible, along with its long snout and large eyes, even when the animal’s large black wings are wrapped around its body. Below the grey head, this flying fox displays a wide collar of golden-orange fur.

Grey-headed flying foxes live in and around the rain forests of northeastern Australia. They live in large colonies that can contain up to a million individuals, and the colony sizes keep increasing as their habitat is destroyed, limiting roosting sites.

The flight, or rather landing, of these creatures causes quite a spectacle, with a noise to match. Although they are very graceful flyers, flying foxes seem not to have perfected their landing technique: the fruit bats often simply fly until they hit something, or crash into trees in order to stop themselves.

Diet

These bats feed on the blossoms and fruit of fruit trees, and play an important role in the local ecosystem. By feasting on the fruit of many different species of trees in their environment, the cross-pollination that occurs through the bats’ excretion of seeds enables the fruit trees to reproduce.

This natural benefit of their diet, however, is little comfort for fruit farmers who neighbor the species’ camps. The flying fox eats not only the ripened fruit, but also the blossoms and nectar of trees.

Size

The grey-headed flying fox is the largest of the flying foxes. The bats at the Aquarium are about 11 inches in length.

Range

The grey-headed flying fox makes its home in the tall trees of the tropical rain forests in northeastern Australia and the Southeast Asian islands.

Population Status

The grey-headed flying fox is listed as vulnerable or threatened under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999, and populations are dwindling as the rain forests in which they live are destroyed.

What habitats are left are suffering from poor weather conditions such as drought and cyclones, further reducing flying fox populations by decreasing food supplies.

The number of colonies is decreasing at a rate dangerous to the long-term survival of the species.

Unfortunately, populations of this species recover very slowly from these setbacks, as the species has a slow reproductive rate of only one offspring per year, and males are not sexually mature until well into the later stages of their lives.

Predators

Predators such as pythons, owls, and sea eagles all feed on flying foxes.

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A Note From the Caretaker

Don’t be afraid to look up when you enter the exhibit! These bats have a gut transit time of 28 minutes and therefore must go half an hour after they eat. We feed the bats at 6 p.m., so you're safe to gape during the day!