Backyard Buddies
Grey-headed Flying-fox

Photo: WIRES

Grey-headed Flying-fox

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The Grey-headed Flying-fox gets its name from its grey, furry head but it also has a bright orange neck. If you imagine them without wings, they really do look just like little foxes.

Also called 'Fruit Bats' they actually prefer to eat pollen and nectar rather than fruit. The Grey-headed Flying-fox often travels 20 to 50 km from their daytime roost to find food. They eat nectar from flowering gums and banksias, Lilly Pilly fruit and Moreton Bay Figs. Despite concerns from farmers, they only eat fruit crops when native food sources are scarce.

Grey-headed Flying-foxes often share roosting spots, called camps, with other bats such as the Little Red Flying-fox and the Black Flying-fox. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is much larger than other Australian flying-foxes. Their camps can have up to 30,000 bats in them.

Even though you look up and can see hundreds of them flying past, they're actually a vulnerable species with their population declining because of habitat clearing.

People often complain about the noise and smell that these buddies can produce in their camps, but flying-foxes are vital to the health of our environment as they disperse seed and pollen over large distances. These bats work like giant bees and are an important keystone species.

When the male is trying to impress females, he secretes a smelly substance from glands in his shoulders onto a tree branch. He will defend this area from other males who try to come onto his turf. The females are attracted to the smell and will mate with the male they most like the smell of.

A flying-fox female gives birth between September and November. They protect their babies from the sun during the day and the cold during the night by wrapping them in their wings. For the first three weeks the female brings her baby with her when she flies off to look for food. The little baby holds tightly onto the mother's fur when she flies.


There have been a few reports of flying-foxes carrying diseases so if you see an injured animal, don't pick it up. Call your local wildlife rescue service and they will be able to handle them safely.

Backyard fruit tree nets can become traps for wildlife including flying-foxes. Make sure you only use animal friendly netting and don't leave any loose sections.

During heatwaves flying foxes are very vulnerable to heat stroke and may need a wildlife carers help to re-hydrate them.

Did you know? 

Flying-foxes don't use ultrasound to communicate like other bats do. Instead they rely on their eyes and nose. They can also navigate by using the lights in cities and towns.

The Grey-headed Flying-fox spends much of its time hanging from the branches of trees in forests or mangroves. 

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”’s all connected, your backyard to the big backyard and everything in between – we can all do our bit to help out nature.“

John - National Parks Volunteer, SA

Photo: OEH