There are four main species of flying fox in Australia.
- Little Red Flying Fox: The smallest of the 4 species. It weighs from 350 to 600 grams. Found throughout Australia except the southerly and central areas where they may visit nomadically.
- Black Fly Fox: The largest species of flying fox is found throughout coastal tropical regions as far south as north New South Wales.
- Grey-headed Fly Fox: Found from Bundaberg (Queensland) all along the coastal strip to Victoria.
- Spectacled Flying Fox: Found only in far northern Queensland
Flying foxes in Australia may carry the fatal human disease lyssavirus. It is very important to avoid being bitten or scratched when handling these animals (even if they are already dead).
Flying foxes can be found in mixed groups. The fact that there may be more than one species feeding in the same area can cause confusion with identification.
Flying foxes’ natural food is largely blossoms and native fruits and berries. Blossums would probably be the greatest part of their diet. With the introduction of orchards, the availability of food in some areas has greatly increased and many farmers agree that flying fox numbers are increasing every year. Flying foxes coming out of their bush camps at night to feed on fruit crops can literally wipe out an entire crop. It is easier and quicker to eat cultivated crops than to have to fly great distances foraging from tree to tree finding blossoms.
Bird Gard’s founding director was a pioneer lychee grower in south east Queensland and still operates a very productive high yielding lychee orchard. This orchard is protected by a sonic fence around its entire perimeter. It is also illuminated at night by blinding floodlights. Consequently, the annual loss to flying foxes and lorikeets is about 2% at most! In contrast to this, the loss to flying foxes and lorikeets in most lychee orchards in Queensland averages out at about 50%.
Flying foxes are intelligent – individuals have been observed flying down the rows, low down in between the trees. This way they avoid the sound from the speakers up above the canopy and are shielded to a degree from the lights mounted on the large lighting towers which stand guard over the entire orchard. These crafty individuals need to be expelled before they encourage others to join them.
If some patrolling is done early in the evening with non-lethal bird “frite” cartridges in order to keep out the scouts that first arrive at that time, it is possible to keep the flying foxes under control in most situations. There will, however, always be older more cunning animals which may defy the system. They must be dealt with before the situation gets out of hand. The results of patrolling for an hour or two per night are well worth the effort.
It is strongly recommended that bright floodlights are used in conjunction with the sound. Sound alone does not always produce best results.