The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Mammals >> Order Chiroptera
Family Pteropodidae

[ter uh pod' uh dE] flying foxes


The flying fox is so named because its head somewhat resembles that of the fox. The largest is Pteropus vampyrus, which has a 1-foot-long body and a wingspread of up to 6 feet. Its eyes are large, because, unlike the insect-eating bats, which find their way about by using echolocation, flying foxes depend on sight.

close-up of a flying fox's face

Distribution and Habitat

Flying foxes are found primarily on the islands of the Malay-Indonesia archipelago, eastwards into the Philippines and some South Pacific islands, southwards into northern Australia, and westwards to parts of southern Asia, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Madagascar, and the island of Pemba off East Africa.

distribution of flying foxes


When feeding, a flying fox hangs upside-down from a branch and draws blossoms or fruit towards itself. Fruits eaten include banana, pawpaw, guava and wild figs. Cultivated plums, pears and apples may be eaten, and much fruit is spoiled by biting or scratching. However, since flying foxes prefer ripe fruit and most commercially-grown fruit is harvested before fully ripe, actual damage to growers is relatively slight. In addition, most flying foxes will take wild fruits such as figs and berries if available, in preference to cultivated fruits. They are also quite fond of blossoms.

a grey-headed flying fox feeding on a bunch of bananas


The breeding season runs from February through March, with babies being born about 6 months later. The single baby is carried about by the mother for about a month, after which it is left behind at the roost when she goes foraging. The youngster can fly at 2 months, begins flying at 3 months, and is fully independent at 4 to 6 months.

Social Behavior

Flying foxes roost by day in trees, in large number of several hundreds to 10,000 or more. Although sociable, they like to keep their distance from their neighbors. When one flies in and lands too near another a fight begins. The disturbed bat screams, lashes out with its clawed thumb, and snaps at its neighbor with its teeth. The fight ends when one of the contestants moves away. One fight may start a chain reaction, with the whole roost becoming agitated.

flying foxes roosting in a tree

Scientific Classification

Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Mammalia
Order Chiroptera
Suborder Megachiroptera
Family Pteropidae
Genera & Species

Pteropus rodricensis
Rodrigues fruit bat
Pteropus vampyrus
Malayan flying fox

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Mammals >> Order Chiroptera

This page was last updated on May 17, 2017.