Flying-fox community news March 2021

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Article by Tyron de Kauwe, Natural Areas Conservation Officer, Sunshine Coast Council

Return of the reds

Happy 2021 flying-fox fanatics!

It’s been a little while since my last update because we experienced a record high influx of little red flying-foxes into the area.

For those who aren’t regular readers, little red flying-foxes - as the name suggests - are red-coloured flying-foxes that are smaller than the usual grey-headed and black flying-foxes seen in this area.

Little reds spend most of their time up in northern and central Queensland. Like many other travellers, they take a Christmas holiday and spend summer mating and enjoying the weather in south east Queensland.

Typically, little reds come en masse into the region around Christmas and stay until around Easter. They primarily feed on Angophora, Corymbia, Eucalyptus and Melaleuca species. Only around 5% of their diet is fruit.

These furry Christmas elves tend to cause their fair share of drama while they are here because they come in such large numbers and they roost on top of each other, like a bunch of grapes. The greys and blacks usually co-habitate quite peacefully and respect each other’s space, however the reds are like the overly-affectionate grandmothers and like to get really close to other flying-foxes. This often leads to flying-fox feuds and causes a lot of noise in the roosts as they wrestle for space.

This year, little reds have visited several sites but were particularly large in two sites.

A site in Sippy Downs was visited for the first time by reds and their numbers rapidly rose to over 30,000 in the space of three weeks in early December. As is the trend for this species, they left just as quickly and four weeks later they had left the site.

Not to be outdone, a site in Nambour that had not been used by flying-foxes since 2011 became a hub once more. The little reds came in dramatic numbers to this site and inhabited both the reserve and adjacent private land. At its peak in mid-December this roost contained over 345,000 little reds! By mid-January the numbers had greatly reduced to around 130,000 and in February were gone altogether.

There are currently roosts in Beerwah (new), Battery Hill and Mooloolaba. Each had 8,000-12,000 reds arrive in early February. Fortunately, this species is far more predictable in their ecology and only stay on the Sunshine Coast short-term. It is expected that they will all leave these roosts in the next six weeks.

If you are interested in knowing where flying-foxes are roosting at the moment, all Council sites are routinely monitored. The results of the monitoring are publically viewable on Council’s BatMap. There are 10 high conflict sites highlighted on the map but all roosts are monitored routinely and published on the map.

What should I expect now?

Throughout March and April flying-fox pups learn to fend for themselves and the adults begin mating. This can make for a noisy roost as mating occurs almost 24 hours each day for around four weeks. The smell around a roost will also become stronger because males are marking trees with their pheromones to try to attract females.

Around Easter, flying-foxes start to leave their maternity roosts and move to winter sites for the cooler months.

How can I find out more about flying-foxes?

Well, you’re in luck! The biggest event on the flying-fox calendar is back and what better day to hold it than International Bat Appreciation Day?

That’s right, the 7th Annual Australasian Bat Night is going to be held on Saturday 17th April.

Thank you to the hundreds of people who were involved in the first virtual Bat Night last year, but this year we are hoping to return to a FREE, LIVE event at Maleny Showgrounds.

Due to popular demand, the event and the roost have both moved to larger locations, so that more people can come and learn all about bats and their ecological importance. The new location means the event can go ahead rain or shine.

To welcome back the live event, this year will be bigger than ever with more activities, more fun and more to learn about Australia’s keystone pollinators.

This year stalls and activities will be open throughout the afternoon, from 1 – 4:30pm, so why not:

  • learn how to build a microbat house
  • hang upside like a bat at the acrobatics stand
  • join in the kids craft activities
  • meet our super human bat rescuers
  • take a guided walk of the nearby flying-fox roost to see them up close and ask all those burning questions like “how do they go to the toilet upside down?”
  • or do it all!

Afterwards, from 4:30pm there will be all your favourite presenters – Cultural connections with bats, Geckoes wildlife demonstration and Clancy Hall’s Bat Chat. Then we can all watch the roost fly out from Pecan Park and watch a movie under the stars.

There will be food stalls and lucky door prizes, so come along dressed in your best batty costume, bring a blanket and enjoy a night of fun and education.

Registration is already open for the event here, so book your spot now. I hope to see you all there.