Spectacled flying-fox female and young:
these two flying-foxes are in the care
of the Tolga Bat Hospital.
Photo © Jennefer Mclean
Spectacled flying-foxes were first described in 1850 by Gould from a specimen collected on Fitzroy Island. They are important seed dispersers and pollinators of rainforest flora. Spectacled flying-foxes have the smallest known distribution and smallest population of the four Australian mainland Pteropus flying-foxes.
- Spectacled flying-foxes have distinctive straw-coloured fur around the eyes which gives them their name.
- Eye rings can sometimes be indistinct and they will look similar to black flying-foxes.
- Pale fur on shoulders can vary between individuals.
- Average weight 500–1000g
- Head–body length 220–240mm
- Tall rainforests, gallery forest, mangroves or paperbark forests.
- Little is known about the life span of spectacled flying-foxes in the wild, but can live in captivity for 17 years.
- Mating common throughout first half of year but conception only in March–May, single young born October–December.
- Mothers carry the young for 3–4 weeks.
- Older young stay at the camp until they start to fly.
- Specialist fruit eater that feeds mostly on rainforest fruits, some eucalyptus nectar and pollen.
- Disperses seeds of at least 26 species of rainforest canopy trees.
- Usually roost in single-species camps.
- Territorial and aggressive at rich food resources.
- Forage only during the night.
Spectacled Flying Fox Distribution in Australia
- Only travel 20–30km from camp to feed
- Coastal Queensland from Tully to the tip of Cape York and islands in Torres Strait.
- Spectacled flying-foxes are generally found in or around rainforests and sometimes in mangroves associated with black flying-foxes.
- Approximately 194 000 buy animals in the total population.
In order of severity
- Habitat destruction through large-scale clearing of coastal and upland habitats for sugar, grazing and urban development.
- Mortality due to paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus).
- Disturbance at maternity colonies.
- Death of unknown numbers on barbed wire fences and powerlines.
- Predators – dogs, and cat.
- Federally listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Fascinating spectacled flying fox fact
Persecution by fruit-growers using electric grids to kill feeding flying-foxes in Far North Queensland was a major threat to the species in the early part of 21st century. A series of court cases by conservationists demonstrated that the very existence of the species, and consequently the World Heritage Area Wet Tropics forests, was at risk. The cases set a legal precedent and resulted in electric grids being banned in Queensland. More information
- 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.