Flying-fox community news September 2020

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

Welcome back for the September edition of flying-fox community news.

September on the Sunshine Coast means movement time for local flying-fox roosts.

The change of seasons usually marks the beginning of birthing season for grey-headed and black flying-foxes, as the species vacate their winter sites and return to traditional maternity roosts to give birth and raise their young.

Flying-fox fast facts

Did you know?

  • Flying-foxes give birth to their young whilst hanging upside-down and catch them in their wings before licking them to stimulate their first breath.
  • Flying-foxes usually give birth to only one ‘pup’ each year.
  • Flying-fox pups drink milk from mum’s teat, which is situated in her armpit.
  • If stressed or disturbed in late stage pregnancy or early after birth, mothers may abort foetuses or abandon their young.

What does this mean at the roosts?

Due to the high risk of abandonment, management actions are limited this time of year, to ensure there are few orphaned pups.

Coastal maternity roosts will likely start to become inhabited again very soon, and females will start giving birth.

Maternity roosts will start to get noisier at night as newborns call for their mother. It may all sound like one big noisy mess to us, but female flying-foxes can actually identify the call of their own young through all the other calls in the roost.

Top tips for living with these noisy neighbours

  • Bring your washing in before dusk.
  • Park your cars under shelter.
  • Keep doors and windows closed at dawn and dusk.
  • 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 pet food and water indoors.
  • Move quietly near roost sites to avoid disturbing the roost – they make more noise when disturbed, which may bother human neighbours.

Gympie visitors

At the beginning of August Gympie locals got a shock when around 240,000 grey-headed flying-foxes arrived in the middle of town and decided to take up residence in an urban park. To put this into perspective, Sunshine Coast has less than 20,000 flying-foxes in total across all our sites.

Large influxes at pop-up camps like this are unusual but demonstrate how flying-fox numbers can fluctuate in response to favourable flowering in an area.

Recently, in Golden Beach, a similar phenomenon occurred as the Melaleuca forest had heavy flowering. Instead of going to their traditional winter roost nearby, flying-foxes started occupying Porter Park to feed on the paperbark flowers.

As flowers emerged, the numbers quickly grew from 340 to over 7000 in the space of two weeks! Then, as the flowering season began to finish at this site, numbers started decreasing again over the next eight weeks to 1100 and are currently back down below 400.

Since flying-foxes are highly mobile species capable of travelling large distances, the way one roost is managed can have a ripple effect on other sites, which can end up having far-reaching impacts in other councils or even different states.

Flying-fox officers at councils across south-east Queensland talk to each other frequently about the movements, numbers and management actions for their resident flying-foxes to ensure they have the best information to try and predict when and where flying-foxes might end up. However, they are still a wild animal and there is no way as yet to accurately predict where they will move to.

Bat Night makes its digital debut

Back in the June edition I mentioned that we were holding the first online Bat Night as the family-favourite outdoor event could not be held due to Covid restrictions.

What a great night it was, with lots of amazing videos from wonderful presenters!

If you missed it, you can see all the videos here or feel free to join the Facebook event to get the full experience.

Bat Rescue flight aviary and the adventures of Jaxon

During Bat Night, two stories stood out to fans – The tale of Terrie the carer and the upcoming flying-fox flight aviary, and the story of Jeannie raising her little red pup ‘Jaxon’.

We have an update on both of these stories! Recently the aviary had its grand opening, with the first flying-foxes being placed in there to help their rehabilitation back to the wild and Jaxon has become quite a fan of his milk-feeds, mum-wraps and batty-dummy. Take an inside look at the aviary opening and Jaxon guzzling down his bottles in the video below.

Jaxon and the flight aviary