The flying fox is a member of a large group of mammals called bats. Bats are the only group of mammals capable of sustained flight. Flying foxes are largely vegetarian, their preferred diet is nectar and pollen from native trees, as well as native fruits and berries. They feed on orchard fruits when their natural diet is in short supply and also eat insects when the opportunity arises. Flying foxes don't use sonar like smaller, insect-eating bats; only their eyes and ears like us. They see as well as a cat at night and are just about as smart.
How to live with your flying fox neighbours
They seem to squabble a lot, they eat your fruit, smell a bit funny and you hear they’re dangerous. It’s no wonder flying foxes aren’t the most welcome of neighbours! But like most neighbours, flying foxes are really not so bad when you get to know them. A local colony can be something to celebrate.
Flying foxes contribute greatly to the local environment and economy. When they join the commuter rush at dusk, flying foxes are off to their job as forest-makers. Incurable sweet-tooths, flying foxes eat fruit, nectar and blossom. In the process, they pollinate flowers and disperse seeds of important native trees. Winging their way around the landscape, up to 100 km in a night, flying foxes are responsible for the upkeep of many forest species.
Back from nightly labours, flying foxes hang out together in camps, some of which have been occupied for centuries.There’s a lot going on in these camps — courting, parenting, socialising, establishing the social hierarchy and of course snoozing.
Flying foxes smell different from humans. It’s not dirtiness – flying foxes spend hours grooming, so their personal hygiene is exemplary. Their smell helps flying foxes identify each other and communicate things like ‘keep your distance’. One dominant odour is a musk-like ‘perfume’ that males use to mark their breeding territories. What you find smelly, they may find attractive.
Flying foxes only take 15-20 minutes to digest food and mostly toilet away from camps. Mind you, it’s best to bring in your washing before dusk and park your car under shelter to prevent staining by the odd dropping, which, by the way, can be easily lifted by leaving a damp rag on top.
Thank you to Fauna Rescue SA for their kind and knowledgeable advice on which this information is based.
DID YOU KNOW Flying foxes are the home to what we call at the RSPCA ‘bat spiders’. If you look up close on a flying fox’s fur there are heaps of ‘spiders’ crawling around them. Don’t get too up close though because once they get on you they are almost impossible to squash and very hard to get off!
They aren’t actually spiders even though they look like them. They are a form of parasitical fly that live exclusively on bats. Don’t worry we haven’t seen one with wings, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist though…
Sleep tight tonight! Don’t let the bat bugs bite!