Little Red flying fox.
Photo © Vivien Jones
Little red flying-foxes are the most widespread species of megabats in Australia and the only species of Australian flying-fox that regularly roosts in clusters – up to 30 have been seen hanging together in a tight bunch. The weight of their clusters can cause severe damage to their roost trees.
Little red flying-foxes are nomadic and their movements depend on food resources. Peters first described the little red flying-fox in 1862, from a specimen collected on Cape York.
- Little red flying-foxes vary in colour from reddish brown to light brown, and there are patches of light, creamy, brown fur where the wing membrane and shoulder meet.
- Head is covered with greyish fur and, in some forms found in northern Queensland, grey fur continues down the back.
- Wings are brown and semi-transparent when seen flying during the day. This helps identify the species.
- Average weight 300–600g
- Head-body length125–200mm
- Broad range of habitats that includes semi-arid areas to tropical and temperate eucalypt forests, paperbark swamps and monsoon forests
- Little red flying-foxes form large camps for mating that can include up to 100,000 individuals.
- Mating occurs November–January, 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.
- Prefer nectar – especially eucalypt, bloodwood and angophera nectar.
- Will eat fruit, sap and insects and cultivated fruit when other resources are unavailable.
- In northern Australia, little red flying-foxes sometimes leave their roost sites before dark and feed during the day on overcast wet season days.
- Often crash land in trees and need to climb a tree limb to take off again.
- Efficient climbers that use their jointed thumbs as well as feet to climb about.
- Prefer to roost near the ground.
Little Red Flying Fox Distribution in Australia
- Only travel 20–30km from camp to feed
- Little red flying-foxes from Shark Bay in Western Australia round the north coast to Queensland and south to northern Victoria.
- Have been recorded in South Australia.
- As nomads they range a long distance inland, depending on the availability of flowering trees.
In order of severity
- Habitat loss
- Barbed-wire fences – little red flying-foxes fly low and are frequently caught on fences only a metre or so off the ground
- Listed as Lower Risk Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Fascinating little red flying-fox fact
Little reds are the only flying-fox in the world that eats almost exclusively nectar. Their tongues have even evolved differently from other flying-foxes to be more similar to the tongues of nectar-feeding birds, such as honey-eaters.
- Hall, L. & Richards, R. (2000). Flying-foxes and fruit and blossom bats of Australia. Australian Natural History Series. UNSW Press.
- Menkhorst, P. & Knight, F. (2004) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press.