Little red flying-fox
  • Last updated:
  • 27 Apr 2021

Article by Clancy Hall, conservation biologist and image by Dr Les Hall

Well paint the town red! These flying-foxes are in town for a good time, not a long time!

There is a famous flying-fox colony in Ipswich, west of Brisbane, where little red flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus) roost in the thousands. It was here that Sir David Attenborough filmed much of his documentary on flying-foxes. In a later interview, he described this as being one of his most memorable experiences in Australia!

So, how did Australia’s smallest flying-fox impress Sir David? By their sheer numbers. There is no secret when little reds arrive in town, and the Sunshine Coast is no exception. These little bats can double the size of existing colonies! They are nomadic and move in the thousands, pollinating large stands of eucalyptus and corymbia trees across northern and eastern Australia. This is an essential service not only for the genetic health of our forests but also for the hardwood timber industry. The flowering of these trees can be unpredictable and short-lived, so when resources become low, little reds may disappear as quickly as they arrived, taking the party with them!

There is somewhat of an unwritten law in flying-fox colonies that black flying-fox hang at the top, followed by grey-headeds then little reds underneath. By the time the last of the little reds stagger in at dawn, they may be forced to cluster on branches within only a metre or two off the ground. What a sight!

While most of our flying-fox have finished birthing for the season, little reds are just beginning. It is essential at this time of year that our world famous little reds are not disturbed, as many females are heavily pregnant or have little pups underwing.