Living with Flying foxes
  • Last updated:
  • 09 Sep 2020

Council understands how difficult it can be living near Flying fox roosts in urban areas, and we have a long term aim to entice Flying foxes to a more suitable home. We conduct research to better understand how they choose their roost sites and are rehabilitating more appropriate reserves with trees they like to live in and food they like to eat.  

Top tips for living with these noisy neighbours

  • Bring your washing in at night.
  • Park your cars under shelter.
  • Keep doors and windows closed at dawn and dusk to reduce impacts during fly-in and fly-out.
  • Double glaze windows and insulate your house to minimise the noise experienced
  • Remove or cover fruit and flowers on fruiting and flowering trees on your property.
  • Keep dogs and cats inside at night and away from roost sites. Keep their food and water indoors.
  • Move quietly near roost sites to avoid disturbance – they make more noise when disturbed.

Visit https://littleaussiebat.com.au/my-backyard/ for more tips on living with flying-foxes.

Never touch a sick or injured Flying fox

Help injured bats by avoiding contact and calling trained and vaccinated wildlife rescue professionals on 1300 ANIMAL (264 625)

Two important times in a Flying fox life 

Flying foxes are wild, seasonal animals that come and go from roost sites all across the Sunshine Coast and Australia.

From September to November, female flying-foxes on the Sunshine Coast will give birth to one live pup. From December to February, the mother’s stay at the same roost site to raise their young.

What’s happening?

  • Grey-headed and Black flying-foxes return from their winter sites to give birth and rear their young.
  • The pup clings to its mother’s belly for the first three to six weeks and feeds on her milk for five to six months.
  • After six weeks, pups are left together in a crèche (like a day-care) in the roost while their mother looks for food throughout the night. When she returns, she recognises her baby by its call, which is why a higher trill can often be heard in sections of a roost.
  • From three months old young flying-foxes are capable of flying short distances and from five to six months old are able to feed independently.
  • During the first three months, young cannot move themselves from perceived danger and can be abandoned by their mother if stressed, which is why Sunshine Coast Council, where possible, avoids management actions during this critical period.

How long will it last?

  • This season generally lasts until January or February, when the young are independent and capable of moving away from danger.

What can I expect?

  • Flying-foxes are about to return to the coastal roosts, which means their numbers may grow.
  • As the young get older, they also get nosier as they call for their mothers.
  • Roosts can be more prone to disturbances or ‘flighty’ as parents are protecting the young.
  • If disturbed, there is a higher change of abandoned or orphaned young and a higher potential for human or pet interaction with young that have fallen out of the trees.

What can council do?

Council’s on-ground works are minimised during birthing season as it is a critical life stage for the flying-foxes. We are only able to perform ‘low impact’ activities (like weed management) as increased disturbance could lead to abortion or abandonment of young.

Flying fox breeding season usually occurs across March and April. Mating occurs throughout the day and night, and the smell increases due to male scent marking on trees so this period can have the greatest impact on nearby residents.

How long will it last?

  • This generally lasts for around four weeks during March and April. After which, they usually move to their winter sites in other areas of the Sunshine Coast.
  • This daytime noise can be very loud but it’s really important that people living nearby do not try to scare away the bats because this only makes the noise worse. It won’t make the flying-foxes leave because it is their home, and they are safe with their family. It’s unsafe for them to fly out during the day.

What can I expect?

  • After they return home from their night shift, the social activity begins.
  • Males are scent-marking trees and constantly fighting for mates, which makes it very noisy and often smelly place to be near both day and night.
  • While the older members of the family hang out in the outer edges of the roost, away from all the commotion, wrapped up in their wings and hanging very still and quiet.

What can council do?

Once the Flying foxes leave the site council starts any annual management activities so residents have a buffer from Flying foxes if they return the following season. A range of management options are used depending on the site. These are outlined in the Regional Flying Fox Management Plan.

Frequently asked questions about Flying foxes

Are Flying foxes native to Australia?

There are four species of Flying fox native to mainland Australia. Three of those four species, the Little Red flying-fox, the Black flying-fox and the Grey headed flying-fox frequent South East Queensland. The Grey headed flying-fox is Australia’s only endemic flying-fox and is federally-listed as Vulnerable to extinction under the EPBC Act.

Why are Flying foxes important?

Flying foxes play an important role in maintaining Australian native forest ecosystems. As Australia’s only known long distance pollinator, Flying foxes are critical for the continued existence of many Australian eucalypt species that can only be pollinated at night. Flying foxes fly out from their roost sites at sunset and move around the region at night searching for food. They return to a central roost just before sunrise and rest there throughout the day. So if you see or hear Flying foxes in trees near your home at night, it's more than likely they are only there temporarily to feed.

There are Flying foxes in trees nearby our house at night. Does this mean there is a roost establishing near my home?

Flying foxes are nocturnal animals that fly out from their roost sites at sunset and move around the region at night searching for food. They return to a central roost just before sunrise and rest there throughout the day. So if you see or hear Flying foxes in trees near your home at night, it's more than likely they’re only there temporarily to feed.

Research has shown that flying-foxes move all across the east coast of Australia stopping off at different roost sites every day while they search for food and mates. Flying foxes are highly nomadic and generally travel between 1,400 and 6,000 kilometres a year, however one tracked Grey headed flying-fox travelled over 12,000 kilometres in one year, moving between Melbourne and central Queensland.

Are Flying fox numbers increasing?

No. Flying fox numbers have declined in the last century due to widespread clearing of native foraging and roosting habitat for agriculture and urban development, and culling practices across their range. These losses have accumulated to approximately two-thirds of south east Queensland’s native vegetation, with an almost 90% reduction of Melaleuca quinquenervia (broad-leaf paperbark) forests, which are the primary source of winter food for nectar-feeding Flying foxes.

Two Flying fox species - the Grey headed and Spectacled flying-foxes - are federally-listed threatened species. The Grey headed is listed as Vulnerable to extinction, while the Spectacled is listed as Endangered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The reduction in habitat has forced Flying foxes to find other habitats, including patches of bushland in urban areas. Flying foxes have highly complex social structures and communicate knowledge of feeding and roosting sites across groups and even generations. Therefore, their choice of urban roosting sites may be linked to historic connections with the site prior to development and is also influenced by available water and food within the urban landscape and backyard plantings.

This has led to increased contact and conflict with humans. Where large roosts occur close to residential areas, the potential for conflict increases as the noise and odour associated with their daily interactions may disrupt the lifestyle of nearby residents.

Council routinely monitors 10 urban roost sites - the results are shown on the Interactive BatMap.

Does council have a plan to manage Flying foxes?

Yes, our Regional Flying Fox Management Plan is available on this website. The plan is approved by the state government as a regional flying-fox management plan, and the Australian Government as a conservation agreement for Grey headed flying-fox.

What do I do if I find an injured Flying fox?

Help injured bats by avoiding contact and calling trained and vaccinated wildlife rescue professionals on 1300 ANIMAL (264 625).