Little Red Flying Fox
As the name suggests, the Little red flying foxes are able to fly, using their leathery wings. Moreover, these bats are excellent climbers, gripping onto tree branches with their feet and webbed thumbs. The coloration of their fur ranges between reddish-brown and light brown. Additionally, population in the Northern Territory exhibits nearly black coat. All individuals display greyish head, pale wings as well as light cream-brown markings at the junction of wings and shoulders. The life expectancy of Little red flying foxes is unknown, although other flying foxes are known to live up to 15 years in the wild and as long as 30 years in captivity.
Endemic to Australia, these bats are widely distributed throughout the continent from Queensland and the Northern Territory to Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Overall, the highest concentration of Little red flying foxes is in the northern parts of Australia. These animals are also known to occur in Papua New Guinea. Additionally, once this species has been found in New Zealand. Preferred types of habitat for these bats are eucalypt forests, woodland, paperbark swamps, mangroves and bamboo thickets. As nomadic creatures, they are constantly on the move to find areas, abundant with flowers and fruits. Hence, during a certain season, the Little red flying foxes move from coastal rainforests to dry inland areas.
Habits and lifestyle
Little red flying foxes display highly social behavior, gathering in large roosts known as camps. For example, summer roosts for this species can contain up to 1,000,000 individuals. As a result, thick tree branches of up to 20 cm in diameter can simply break under the enormous weight of roosting bats. Members of a camp exhibit a rather unique behavior for bats: they remain very close to each other so that they can touch body to body. Camps of these flying foxes are constantly on the move, remaining in one place for no longer than 4 - 6 weeks. These bats are nocturnal animals. They spend their active nighttime hours feeding (during which they typically shrieking and compete over food items) as well as silently flying around, although he waving of their wings can still be heard.
cloud, colony, flock
Diet and nutrition
Little red flying foxes are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. According to studies, during the reproductive season, females of this species form harem groups. These bats mate during the Australian spring, typically in November-December. Gestation period lasts for 5 months, yielding one baby in April-May. After the mating season, females gather in smaller all-female units to raise their offspring. There is little information on early stages of development in this species. However, considering that many flying fox species exhibit delayed implantation, these animals may have shorter period of development. Additionally, other related flying foxes are known to have 3 - 6 months of lactation. The age of reproductive maturity is 1.5 - 2 years old.
One of the biggest threats to the overall population of Little red flying foxes is clearance of native vegetation due to forestry operations as well as for agricultural and urban development, causing considerable loss of favorable feeding and roosting sites. In some parts of their Australian range, these bats are commonly hunted and poisoned by farmers as pests, raiding fruit-bearing plants. Additionally, hundreds of these animals are nowadays trapped on barbed wire fences, which specialize in beef and dairy farming.
According to IUCN, the Little red flying fox is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
These bats act as important pollinators and seed dispersers of the plants they consume, thus benefiting the local ecosystem.
Fun facts for kids
- In spite of the commonly used expression “blind as a bat”, flying foxes in general possess well-developed senses of vision and smell, helping them to detect food.
- When foraging during the night, these animals usually travel long distances of as much as 80 km (50 miles) to the trees with favorable fruits.
- Little red flying fox is the smallest species of its genus.
- These animals exhibit seasonal migration, associated with presence of suitable flowers and fruits. During a certain season, these bats move from their rainforest roosts to arid or coastal areas in search of food.
- Little red flying fox communicate through vocalizations such as the “yip” call, resembling that emitted by a small dog. This is one of the most common vocalizations, used by this species, and usually varies from a high-pitch twitter to a loud scream.