Black flying foxes and little red flying foxes are two common species in the Northern Territory (NT).
They are protected in the NT and should not be interfered with without a permit. Read more about wildlife permits.
Flying fox colonies move according to climate and the flowering and fruiting patterns of their preferred food plants.
Flying foxes mainly live in moist, warm habitats, including gullies in lowland rainforest, coastal stringybark forests and mangroves often beside a creek or water body.
Sites where young are born are very important to them and they will often return to these roosting sites.
Benefits to the ecosystem
Flying foxes are important pollinators and seed dispersers of many native plants.
Some plants rely only on flying foxes to spread their seeds.
Flying foxes cover huge distances and spread seeds and pollen as they feed.
A flying fox can spread 60,000 seeds in one night.
This increases the genetic diversity of these plants which has important health benefits for plant communities.
Flying foxes are also important for healthy ecosystems.
They provide large amounts of fertiliser and create gaps in the tree canopy that help other plants to compete.
Some trees shade ground-dwelling plants and shrubs.
By creating a gap in the canopy flying foxes allow these plants to get more sunlight, rainfall and nutrients.
Flying foxes are nocturnal foragers that mostly feed on blossoms of eucalypts, tea-trees, grevilleas, figs and lilly pillys.
They may scavenge for fruit, nectar, sap and occasionally the leaves of native plants.
They will also eat insects if blossoms are unavailable.
Flying foxes usually find their food locally, within 5km to 15km of their roosting site.
If necessary though, they will travel up to 50km for food.
Interactions with people
Flying foxes take advantage of reliable food supplies, moist habitats and well lit conditions. They will often live near people.
Read what to do if you have flying foxes near your home or on your property.
In urban areas flying foxes can be considered a nuisance because of their odour, noise and droppings.
Roosting activities can also damage the vegetation at roosting sites particularly when they are in small patches of vegetation.
Flying foxes are difficult to handle and only people that are vaccinated and trained in the care of these animals should do so.
Read more about caring for flying foxes.
Australian bat lyssavirus
Australian bat lyssavirus has been identified in the little red flying fox and the black flying fox.
Before handling or caring for these animals you should be vaccinated.
Read more on the Australian bat lyssavirus.
Flying foxes near your home
If you have problems with flying foxes near your home, you can take the following actions:
- remove tall trees that may be chosen as roosting sites
- limit the use of loud machinery such as chainsaws and lawn mowers which can reduce the noise that flying foxes make when they are disturbed
- prune trees to reduce protection offered to flying foxes - they will select shady trees, so pruned trees are less attractive
- reduce the availability of fruit by tying bags around developing fruit on trees and remove excess fruit
- cover vehicles to stop damage caused by bat droppings.
Do not handle flying foxes.
If flying foxes have recently moved to your property you can use air horns or make loud noises using pots to encourage them to move to another area.
Report flying foxes
For more information contact Parks and Wildlife.
Read how to report sick or injured wildlife.
Read about flying fox management in Katherine.
Last updated: 12 June 2020
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