Grey-headed flying foxCommon Name: Grey-headed flying fox
Scientific Name: Pteropus poliocephalus
Distribution: Eastern Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria), primarily east of the Great Dividing Range.
Status: CITES – Appendix II. IUCN (2008) – Vulnerable (VU).

The Grey-headed flying fox lives in social groups, traveling between camps which are spread at regular intervals along the Southeastern coast of Australia. Once a camp has been established, it will be used repeatedly, and even sometimes shared with other species. Camps will be used seasonally, often for breeding or maternity camps, and very few are ever occupied for the whole year. Grey-heads will forage 9 miles (15 km) or more from their camp site for food, and have been known to travel great distances. One animal was found 621 miles (1000 km) from the site where it had been banded six months before. They also have an extensive system of vocal communication, using over 20 different situation-specific calls.

The Grey-headed flying fox weighs approximately 1.3-2.2 lbs (600-1000 g), with a forearm length of 5-7 in (138-180 mm). They are dark brown, with long, thick fur extending all the way to the ankle, unlike other Pteropus, where the fur ends at the knees. They have a reddish, orange mantle around their necks and a light grey head. Breeding occurs throughout the year, but most conceptions occur in March and April. Gestation is about six months, and usually produces a single pup. The young is carried by the mother for four or five weeks, and is then left at camp at night while the mother forages.

The main food sources for the Grey-headed fruit bat are the blossoms of the eucalyptus and tea tree, as well as the fruits of fig and palms.  In captivity, they are fed a variety of fruits, vegetables and Lubee’s fruit bat supplement.

This species is threatened by loss of foraging and roosting habitat, largely through clearance of native vegetation for agriculture and forestry operations plus urban development (Duncan et al. 1999). The species requires multiple, dispersed populations of food trees (Duncan et al. 1999). The winter and early spring range of this species is limited to a narrow-coastal strip in Queensland and New South Wales that is targeted for residential development, and this is a primary threat (Duncan et al. 1999; Eby and Lunney 2002).

The species is believed to be threatened by competition and hybridization with Pteropus alecto, which has expanded southward at the same time as the range of P. poliocephalus has been reduced in the north (Duncan et al. 1999; G. Richards pers. comm.). The rapid rate of expansion range extension by P. alecto (by 500 km from 1990 to 2006) is of particular concern (P. Eby pers. comm.). It is additionally threatened by pollutants in urban areas and potentially by a number of viral pathogens (Duncan et al. 1999).

On Threatened species day 2012 in Queensland, Australia the government legalized the shooting of Little Red, Black, Spectacled, and Grey-headed flying foxes, the latter of which is considered vulnerable, for the purposes of protecting crops.  These methods have been shown to be cruel and ineffective.  We strongly encourage a path of community education and better humane management of flying fox camps.  Please follow this link to our template letter you can use to contact the QLD government and encourage an end to this irresponsible practice.  Please be polite in any comments you might add.   You can find the Template Letter here.  

Citation: Lunney, D., Richards, G. & Dickman, C. 2008.  Pteropus poliocephalus.  In: IUCN 2012.  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  Version 2012.2.  <www.iucnredlist.org>.  Downloaded on 29 January 2013.

Suggested Reading: Mammals of Australia Edited by Ronald Strahan, Smithsonian Institution Press; p439-441
Old World Fruit Bats; An Action Plan for their Conservation Compiled by Simon P. Mickleburgh, Anthony M. Hutson, and Paul A. Racey; IUCN/SSC Chiroptera Specialist Group, 1992, p 122-124.