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Among the four species of flying foxes in Australia, the Australian grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) has been deemed Vulnerable by the International Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as the government of Australia. As a result, the Australian government has enforced the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which aims to protect these flying foxes from the face of extinction. The other three species of flying foxes are black flying foxes, little red flying foxes, and spectacled flying foxes.
Grey-headed flying foxes are nocturnal as well as nomadic, they forage for food during the nighttime while roosting in the day. These wild creatures are very intelligent as they construct temporary camps near food sources to ease the responsibilities of parental care. When their pups become too heavy to be carried from place to place, they are left back in these protected camps while the mother goes out in search of food.
Belonging to the family of Pteropodidae, the grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) is a species of bat.
The grey-headed flying fox has been categorized under the class Mammalia.
The number of grey-headed flying foxes has been estimated at around 586,000 throughout the world. However, the population has declined drastically by more than 30% from 1989 to 1999, due to which the species has been listed as Vulnerable.
Grey-headed fly foxes are native to Australia. They can be located on the eastern coast of Australia through Rockhampton, Queensland to New South Wales, Adelaide in southern Australia, and Victoria.
The habitat of these grey-headed flying foxes is wide-ranging. The species can be traced in temperate and subtropical rainforests and even in woodlands, swamps, and heaths. Their habitat also includes gardens, orchards, and food crops. These flying foxes set up their camps where they have access to ample food sources. These roosting camps are often located in areas near water sources, dense vegetation, and gullies.
Flying foxes are highly social and are known to form large communities. They live together in large groups consisting of 50 or more bats. A solitary flying fox is a rare sight.
The life expectancy of the grey-headed flying fox is up to 15 years in the wild, while it can live up to a maximum of 23 years in captivity.
The breeding season begins in November and continues through the months until January. Males attain sexual maturity after 30 months but are known to be fertile only during the breeding periods. Males use their olfactory receptors to attract potential mates (with whom they form monogamous pairs), to form territories, and to warn away other males. After mating, females segregate themselves to take care of the young ones. Females give birth to a pup and this young pup feeds on the mother's milk for about five to six months and starts weaning slowly afterward. Young bats can fend for themselves and search for their own food after six months.
According to the data publicized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the grey-headed flying fox species has a Vulnerable status.
The primary fur color of the species is dark grey, unlike the little red flying fox that is found in a reddish-brown shade. The fur attains a lighter grey near its head while the color is more of orange or russet shade around its neck. The wingspan extends up to 39 in (1 m). Grey-headed flying foxes can be differentiated from other flying fox species by the fur that covers their legs right up to their ankles.
A wildlife photographer or an enthusiast will enjoy the sight of this vulnerable grey-headed flying fox bat, despite the fact that bats are not generally creatures that are considered cute or beautiful.
One of the most unique features of these Australian grey-headed flying foxes is that on top of having 30 distinct calls, they interact with each other via smell. With the help of different odors, they are able to identify and locate each other, camping trees, their mates, and their young pups.
The grey-headed flying fox has a 9-11 in (23-29 cm) head and body length. It is unquestionably larger than the little red flying fox, which is considered to be the smallest among all Australian flying fox species. When compared to a hoary bat, it is quite large since a hoary bat is around 3 in (7.5 cm) long.
Generally, flying foxes are extremely swift flying animals. They have the potential to fly at speeds of about 13 mph (21 kph) on average. However, the maximum speed they can achieve is 19 mph (31 kph).
Grey-headed flying fox bats weigh around 1.3-2.2 lb (600 and 1000 g).
Neither males nor females of the species have been attributed distinct names. They are simply called male and female grey-headed flying foxes.
Generally, the babies of these bats are referred to as pups.
Grey-headed flying foxes are known to be herbivores, and they are also called fruit bats for a good reason. These bats primarily feed on nectar and pollen derived from the native trees and vines. Native trees, namely Banksia, Eucalyptus, and Melaleuca, are the favorites of these bats. However, they also forage for fruits from evergreen forests, harvested fruit crops, gardens, or even orchards.
The main risk that these bats pose is the risk of viruses that humans can contract from flying bats. Diseases such as the Hendra virus and the Australian bat lyssavirus are associated with these flying foxes and are considered harmful. Otherwise, they are not known to have an aggressive nature and normally stay aloof.
It is illegal to own this vulnerable bat species. Also, it's unethical to take these wild animals from their natural habitat.
A group of bats is referred to as a cloud, cauldron, or colony.
These bats can travel 31 mi (50 km) just to carry out their food search operations.
These bats are cleanliness experts! They indulge in a lot of grooming and cleaning.
If you want to know some fun facts about the grey-headed flying fox, then you might be amused to learn that figs are their absolute favorite fruit, while they also love to extract nectar and pollen from gum trees.
Grey-headed flying foxes are of immense ecological significance as they engage in the process of pollination and the dispersal of seeds. Since these mammals from Australia feed on pollen and nectar from a variety of flowers, they unwittingly disperse pollen in doing so. The pollen sticks to the fur on the legs of these bats and gets carried over to different places as they fly. More than 50 native trees are benefitting from this process, and so is the Australian ecosystem. Did you know that a single grey-headed flying fox has the capacity to disperse almost 60,000 seeds within the range of 31 mi (50 km)?
The grey-headed flying fox has been categorized as a Vulnerable species of bats. Climate change, a loss of habitat due to human activities like construction projects (including the construction of powerlines and nets in which they often get trapped or entangled), agriculture, clearing of land, and illegal shooting and hunting have adversely affected the population of grey-headed flying foxes. As per records, only about 586,000 flying foxes are alive all over the world today, surviving primarily in several Australian regions. Further unchecked activities and a lack of prevention measures could potentially harm these animals to the point of extinction.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our ghost bat facts and flying squirrel facts pages.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Grey-headed flying fox coloring pages.
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