Flying foxes are not related to foxes at all but are a group of bats with fox-like heads. A familiar sight over much of eastern Australia, grey-headed flying foxes or fruit bats are usually seen at dusk, leaving their preferred roosting site in large numbers, heading out to favourite feeding areas. The wingspan may exceed 50cm and large bats may weigh a kilogram in weight. They can be distinguished from other flying foxes by the dark grey head and body, black wings and a wide reddish-brown collar. The eyes are dark brown.
Flying foxes will utilise most habitat types which provide food, particularly eucalyptus woodlands and forests. If appropriate flowering and fruiting trees are present, bats will have no hesitation entering towns and cities, including central business districts. They are quite social animals forming huge roosts, sometimes many thousands strong. These are very noisy and smelly places with neighbours constantly squabbling over their own little territories.
Flying foxes are often regarded as pests by fruit orchardists. However, the truth of the matter is that they much prefer their natural diet, the nectar and pollen from flowering native trees, particularly eucalyptus trees, although native fruits and berries are also consumed. When the forests are cleared, flying foxes lose their food source and have to turn to alternatives such as orchard fruit.
Females give birth to the single baby in spring. It clings on tightly to the mother’s fur and is carried everywhere during its first month. After that, it is left in the roost at night while the mother flies to the feeding sites. Juveniles learn to fly at around two months and are fully independent after a further month. Mothers returning to the roost after a nights feeding are able to locate their own offspring amongst thousands of other bats simply by their individual odour.