The Black flying fox is one of the largest species of its order. Moreover, this animal is the largest bat in Australia. The Black flying fox is known for its amazingly long wingspan of more than a meter. Its body is almost totally black, except for the rusty-red fur around its neck as well as white-tipped hairs on the abdomen. Some individuals of this species may exhibit reddish-brown rings around. Additionally, some bats lack fur on their lower legs.
These bats are endemic to southern Papua New Guinea, Nusa Tenggara and Sulawesi (Indonesia) as well as Australia, where they occur in northern, eastern and western parts of the continent. Within this territory, the Black flying foxes inhabit coastal and near-coastal areas. They gather into large colonies known as camps, typically in bamboos, rainforests, eucalyptus open forests, savannah woodlands and mangrove or paperbark swamps.
The Black flying-foxes are nocturnal animals that are active during the nighttime hours. They rest by day in large roost called camps. A single such camp may contain as many as hundreds of thousands of Black flying-foxes, although camps in the Northern Territory are usually contain less than 30,000 individuals. The Black flying-foxes are known to roost in mixed camps with little red flying foxes. When cold or wet, these animals warm up by wrapping their wings tightly around themselves. When it gets hot, they spread and flap their wings in order to cool off. During the sunset, large groups of these bats begin to forage. The Black flying-foxes rely on sight and smell when looking for food. They often take long night trips of up to 50 km to find food. Their diet varies, depending on season. The Black flying-foxes are known to fight for food sources such as eucalypt blossoms or ripening mangoes. During these confrontations, the animals emit characteristic loud high-pitched squabbling noises.
These animals are herbivores (frugivores and nectarivores), they generally consume nectar, pollen and fruits, supplementing this diet with occasional blossom of eucalypts, paperbarks and turpentine trees. If these types of food are hard to find, the Black flying foxes will switch to mangoe and other introduced or commercial fruits.
The mating behavior of this species is insufficiently explored. However, like other flying fox species, they might exhibit polygynous mating system, in which males mate with many females. They mate between March and April. During this period, each large male defines its own territory, typically on a tree branch. After breeding, the animals divide into smaller groups for the winter. Births occur in spring and summer months, usually between September and December, when these small groups reunite into large camps. Females yield a single baby per year. During the first 4 weeks of its life, the newborn bat totally depends on its mother. It is unable to fly and thus clings on hairs and nipples of its mother. After this period, the female begin leaving the baby at the camp every night in order to find food. The young bat starts flying at 2 - 3 months old, by which time it starts leaving the camp to forage at nocturnally. Weaning occurs at 5 months old and the age of sexual maturity is 2 years old, although females of this species typically begin breeding only after 3 years of age.
Although the population of Black flying foxes as a whole is not currently endangered, these animals do face some serious threats. For example, in many parts of their range, the bats are hunted for food. Meanwhile, those is urban areas are often shot in orchards, entangled in barbed wire and threatened by power lines. Additionally, climate change leads to raising temperatures, which negatively impact the population of this species.
According to IUCN, the Black flying fox is common and widespread throughout its range (except for Papua New Guinea), but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species’ numbers are stable, and the animal is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Due to their diet, the Black flying foxes are key pollinators as well as seed dispersers of rainforests.