An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. 76
  2. 14_black_flying-fox_-_credit_as___c__b.g._thomson__www.auswildlife.com___2_ Roosting by B.G. Thomson
  3. 06_black_flying-fox_-_by_john_mewett Roosting by J. Mewett

Black Flying-fox

Pteropus alecto


  • Colour: almost completely black with a rusty-red or chocolate-brown patch at the back of its head and on its neck. Its fur can be tipped with grey, particularly on its belly.
  • It has no fur on its lower legs.
  • Size: 23 – 28 cm (head and body length), with a wingspan of over one metre


  • Call: loud, high-pitched squabbling!
  • Diet: it prefers pollen and nectar from eucalypt blossoms, paperbarks and turpentine trees; however, it may also eat other native and introduced flowers and fruit, including mangoes, when native foods are scarce. It has also been seen feeding on leaves by chewing them, swallowing the liquid and then spitting out the fibre.
  • Movement: during the day it roosts on tree branches in large groups known as camps. Main camps form during summer and their size varies depending on the availability of local food. It leaves the camp at dusk to feed, finding its food by sight and smell, and by following other bats. The groups can travel over 50 km to feed and will use the same camp for many years.
  • Breeding: mating occurs in autumn and the female gives birth in late winter or spring when food is abundant. The young are carried by their mothers until they are about four weeks old when they are left at the roost while their mothers forage at night. They begin to fly when they are eight weeks old but remain dependent on their mothers for at least three months. 

What to Observe

  • Presence
  • Courting/mating
  • Young attached to mother

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect bats to start appearing in new areas, or breeding earlier, as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

When To Look

  • At night, when they are feeding.
  • From August through to April.
  • Mating occurs in autumn (around March and April).
  • Young flying-foxes can be seen attached to their mother’s bellies from late winter through spring. 

Where To Look

  • Around the northern coast of Australia, from the Bellinger River (near Coffs Harbour) in New South Wales, north through Queensland and the Northern Territory, to Shark Bay in Western Australia. It can also be found inland, wherever there is permanent water in rivers, and appears to be extending its range south in New South Wales. 
  • In a wide range of tropical and subtropical forests and woodlands, particularly in mangroves, paperbark swamps and patches of rainforest.
  • Look for roosting sites in coastal mangroves and woodland.

Black Flying Fox compiled distribution map - IUCN Red List

Black Flying Fox compiled distribution map - IUCN Red List

Where To Look

Maps of Habitat Suitability


Current probability
of occurrence
2070 probability
of occurrence (RCP 8.5)
Species range change from
current to 2070 probability

Above, the left and middle maps show the modelled habitat suitability for the the species under current and potential future climate conditions. The colours indicate the predicted habitat suitability from low (white) to high (dark red).

The future habitat suitability is modelled for the year 2070 under a climate change scenario that represents 'business as usual' (RCP 8.5). The map on the right shows how the range of the species might change between now and 2070, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, green areas where the species range might expand, and blue areas where the habitat is predicted to be suitable for the species now and in the future.

The models for this species were run in the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory. Please note that while models can be very informative, they are only a representation of the real world and thus should always be viewed with caution. You can read more about the science behind these models here.



Churchill, S 1998. Australian Bats. New Holland, Sydney.

Hall LS and Richards G 2000. Flying Foxes: Fruit and Blossom Bats of Australia. UNSW Press: Sydney.

Menkhorst P and Knight F 2004. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press.

  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    • Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus): smaller in size, lighter in colour and has fur all the way down its legs.
    • Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicullatus): has distinctive straw-coloured fur which surrounds its eyes, with varying amounts also on its shoulders and head.
  1. Did You Know?

    It can live for up to 20 years in the wild.

    It can fly at 35 – 40 kilometres per hour.

    It often shares its camps with the Grey-headed Flying-fox.

  1. Listen to the Call