The Silent Foragers Bats


When you live in Brisbane you may be aware of large bat colonies that fly silently overhead at dusk. These nocturnal animals are fruit eating bats or flying foxes with the two most common to Brisbane being black flying-foxes Pteropus alecto and grey-headed flying-foxes Pteropus poliocephalus. Black flying foxes are generally black all over, while the grey-headed flying foxes have a grey head and red or orange fur.

The Silent Foragers Bats
The Silent Foragers Bats

Flying foxes search for food at night, often flying up to one hundred kilometres in one night. Flying foxes feast on the ripening fruit in your backyard as well as the nuts on your palm trees, nectar and flowers. The flying fox is an excellent seed distributor, pollinating our native plants and ensuring new plant growth. As flying foxes live in very large colonies or camps of up to tens of thousands, they play a vital role in regenerating our native plants and forests.

The other type of bats found in Brisbane are Microbats, an insect eating bat which uses its superb radar while flying to locate its prey in three dimensions. The Microbat is useful to the environment in a different way. It eats up to more than half its body weight in insects per hour. That means that each Microbat is responsible for over a thousand insects every night. Each of these tiny mammals consumes disease bearing mosquitoes and other agricultural pests reducing our need for larger quantities of poisons.

Don’t touch that bat! A small percentage of bats may have Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) and when a person is scratched or bitten the bat has to be euthanased for testing. So it is important when you find one in need of help that you do not touch it.

Make sure it is safe from other predators by placing a box over it and call Bat Care Brisbane’s helpline on 0488 228 134. Bat carers are trained to rescue frightened and injured bats and are vaccinated to protect them from ABLV. There have also been recent reports of a link between bats and Hendra Virus in horses. Bats are the only mammal known to have antibodies to the virus other than horses. However there has been no evidence of bat to human infection, and it is unknown how the horses are being infected or if it is even the same strain of Hendra Virus. The virus can be transmitted from horses to humans so more research is urgently needed. It is also important that bats are not persecuted as they are very important for a healthy environment. If you see a bat on powerlines please also report it as it may have a baby on board.

Batty Boat Cruises

If you would like to know more about these wonderful creatures of the night, join a Batty Boat Cruise run by Wildlife Queensland. You will witness the wonderful nightly flight of thousands of bats.