Australia has some amazing wildlife, and bats are no exception. There are over 60 species of bats in Australia, covering many different habitats.
The Australian Bat Clinic (ABC) was established to monitor their populations and assist in their conservation. Find out more about the different types of bats in Australia.
Although bats are present in the majority of the state of Western Australia, significant habitat loss and fragmentation have caused an increase in urban and rural bat populations.
By pollinating trees, spreading seeds, and consuming millions of insects each night, bats contribute to the ecosystem in several ways. Let’s have a look at these fascinating creatures.
Table of Contents
Types of Bats in Australia
- Flying Foxes
- Free-tailed Bat
- Ghost Bat
- Large-footed Bat
- Long-winged Bat
- Little Red Flying Fox
- Little Pied Bat
- Blossom Bat
- Bare-backed Fruit Bat
- Black Flying Fox
- Chocolate Wattled Bat
- Spectacled Flying Fox
- Western False Pipistrelle
- Lesser Long-eared Bat
- Eastern Tube-nosed Bat
- Forest Pipistrelle
- Cape York Sheathtail Bat
Types of Bats in Australia
The flying fox is a genus of megabats ( Pteropus). There are more than 60 species of bats in this genus, and they can be found on tropical islands all over the world, from Madagascar to Australia, Indonesia to Asia’s mainland.
The largest bats are flying foxes, some of which have a 5-foot wingspan and a 16-inch head and body length. These bats have a fox-shaped head, tiny ears, and large eyes. Their claws are sharp and curved.
Furthermore, these large bats eat fruit and other plants, as well as insects that they find using their excellent sense of smell.
Most species are nocturnal and navigate with their eyesight because they cannot use echolocation like other bats. In addition, they have binocular vision and can see in dim light.
Flying foxes have a long lifespan and breed slowly, with the majority of females having just one offspring per year. As a result, they are subject to hazards like culling, overhunting, and natural disasters.
Free-tailed bats are among the different types of bats in Australia. These bats are also called Mollosids. They are small to medium-sized with thick tail that protrudes beyond the tail membrane.
Most species have a large face with a wrinkled snout and lips, and the snout extends well over the lower lip.
Furthermore, they occur in many habitats and are common in rural, natural, and urban areas. They are most abundant in dry and semi-arid habitats. Natural roosting sites include tree cavities, caves, bark, foliage, and holes in the ground.
The ghost bat is the only Australian bat that eats large vertebrates like birds, reptiles, and mammals. Its wing membrane and bare skin are pale in color. Also, its fur is light or dark grey on the back and paler in the front.
The eyes are also large and dark in color, and the nose leaf is prominent and simple. Its large ears are elongated and joined at the lower half.
The ghost bat is a nocturnal animal. They’re inactive throughout the day and do not hibernate. In addition, they live in colonies whose size usually decreases during the austral winter. But it also increases when bats gather to breed, or females create maternity groups.
Ghost bats leave their roosts alone, in pairs, or small groups several hours after dusk. They are normally quiet but make a squealing sound when in captivity. When the mother isn’t around, the young will continuously chirp.
The large-footed bat is also among the different types of bats in Australia. It is the only type of bat in Australia that can catch fish for food. They use their huge feet to trawl for food close to the water’s surface.
Their fur varies from dark grey to reddish brown. However, bright orange and partial albinism have been observed. These bats tend to roost in caves, mines, and stormwater drains near permanent water.
Large-footed bats prefer low-lying, undulating vegetation to cleared areas. Colonies have less than 15 members. They consume small fish, shrimp, and aquatic macroinvertebrates. Additionally, they will hunt flying insects that gather near bodies of water.
Long-winged bats are typically small with broad, short muzzles. They have the ability to fold back an exceptionally long third finger when the wings are folded. As a result of this finger, bats have long, narrow wings that enable them to fly quickly through open spaces.
Some species can even migrate over a distance of hundreds of kilometers. The wing’s proportionate length is roughly 2.5 times that of the body and head. However, this specie is critically endangered and has declined over the past few years.
Little Red Flying Fox
The little red flying fox is also among the different types of bats in Australia. These bats can fly thanks to their leathery wings.
They are also great climbers, holding onto tree branches with their webbed thumbs and feet. Their fur is a variety of reddish-brown to light brown colors.
Little red flying foxes exhibit social behavior by gathering in large roosts known as camps. For instance, this species can roost with up to 1,000,000 individuals during the summer.
Therefore, the enormous weight of roosting bats can easily cause thick tree branches up to 20cm in diameter to break.
Furthermore, they are most active at night when they feed, which usually involves shrieking and fighting over food. They also fly silently, but you can still hear their wings flapping.
Their life expectancy is unknown, although other flying foxes live up to 15 years in the wild and as long as 30 years in captivity.
Megadermatids are medium-sized to big bats, with a head and body length of 6.5 to 14cm. These false vampires are quite distinctive in appearance, with long, erect noseleaves and huge ears. When making an echolocation call, the huge noseleaf amplifies the sound like a megaphone.
Furthermore, megadermatid wings are short and broad with a relatively large area. With this kind of wing, good mobility is possible. The second wing digit only has one phalanx, whereas the third has two.
Despite their common name, none of the megadermatids actually consume blood. Instead, they all feed on insects or small vertebrates. The small vertebrate animals that the carnivorous species eat include frogs, fish, lizards, birds, mice, and other bats.
One species (Cardioderma cor) uses passive echolocation to listen for prey and swoop down on the unsuspecting beetle, centipede, scorpion, or small bat. Additionally, this species “sings” to keep other bats away from its foraging grounds.
This family of bats makes their homes in trees, buildings, caves, and rock crevices. Roosting habits vary from colonial to solitary. Lavia frons is one species that seems to be monogamous. A monogamous mating system is uncommon in bats and mammals in general.
Little Pied Bat
Little Pied Bats are parts of the different types of bats in Australia. It is a black and white bat that weighs between four and eight grams.
The head and body are around 4.5 cm long, while the tail is about 3.5 cm. Their fur is glossy black on the back and gray on the belly. Also, they have white fur along the flanks forming a “V” in the public area.
Little pies bats occur in forests, open woodlands, cypress pine forests, and Bimbil box woodlands. They roost in caves, mine shafts, tree hollows, tunnels, and buildings.
In addition, they can tolerate high temperatures and dryness but requires access to open water. They eat moths and other flying invertebrates.
Blossom bats are usually fawn or reddish-brown in color. They have large eyes, long, narrow faces, and a long thin, ‘brush-like’ tongue.
Their specialized diet consists of pollen and nectar from paperback, bottlebrush, banksia, and gum tree blossoms. It often lands on flowers to feed, although it also hovers in front of them to gather pollen and nectar. Many plants in the rainforest depend on it to pollinate them.
Individuals roost in dense vegetation in the sub-canopy. One young is born in the early spring, and another in the late summer to early fall.
Although these bats are harmless, it is advisable to avoid handling them since they may carry the potentially fatal Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV), which spreads by scratches or bites.
Bare-backed Fruit Bat
These bats are also on the list of the different types of bats in Australia. The wings of the bare-backed Fruit-bats are linked to the body along the back rather than the sides. This gives the impression that they have no hair on their back, hence their name.
Interestingly, these bats are the only Australian megabats that roost in a cave. Around 100 bats gather in very dark places such as caves, abandoned mines, and buildings, as well as under heaps of big rocks and thick vegetation.
The bare-backed fruit bat feeds on the pollen and nectar of native trees. It also consumes introduced species, such as banana flowers.
However, they’re vulnerable to the loss of feeding areas from forestry operations, land degradation from agriculture, and clearing of native vegetation.
Black Flying Fox
The black flying fox has a black head and a black body with some lighter hairs. These animals usually have a reddish collar on the back of the neck and may have a brown eye ring.
Their legs are furred up to the knee but hairless below. The forearm length ranges from 153 to 191 mm, with an average weight of 667g.
Black flying fox roosts in colonies called camps during the day. Males migrate between roosts more than females throughout the year. On the other hand, females travel longer distances from roosting locations to food than males do.
Furthermore, females travel between roosts more often during the build-up season than at any other time of the year. During the dry season, both males and females move farther between roosting spots and food.
The lifespan of the black flying fox is unknown. However, it has been estimated that females who survive to maturity must live for about 7 years to maintain a stable population. Approximately 30% of females reach maturity, and survival rates differ between camps and years.
Chocolate Wattled Bat
The chocolate wattled bat is among the different types of bats in Australia. They’re named for their uniformly milk-chocolate brown fur on their back and belly. Also, they have a short muzzle with a steeply domed head.
The secondary lobe along the lower lip is semicircular and visible. However, the lobe at the corner of the mouth (or wattle) is small and difficult to notice. This could be the difference between this species and the large forest bat.
Chocolate wattled bats prefer to roost in tree hollows, under bark, and on rare occasions in homes and caves. You can find them in woodlands, continuous forests, mallee, and open plains. Roost sizes in a single hollow can range from 6 to 70 females.
They eat moths and beetles; however, their diet depends on the abundance of flying insects within a 5km radius of their roost. Their predators include hawks, owls, and feral cats.
Spectacled Flying Fox
These large bats have black coloration. They have visible yellow bands surrounding their eyes. They have a yellow mantle covering their neck, back, and shoulders.
However, the color pattern varies between individuals: some have a stronger yellowish tint in their coats, while others are much paler.
Spectacled flying foxes have a monogamous mating arrangement, meaning that each individual has just one mate per season. When a female does not produce children, her mate will leave to breed with other females, resulting in polygynous breeding.
Furthermore, spectacled flying foxes are highly social creatures that form groups known as camps. A single camp of this species can have tens of thousands of bats.
They don’t spend much time sleeping. These bats spend their day at these campgrounds, which are located in the forest’s upper canopy.
When socializing in big groups, they produce a lot of noise, which may be heard from a distance. Their roosting locations are often in areas with adequate food, shelter, and roosting space.
Western False Pipistrelle
Western false pipistrelles are also among the different types of bats in Australia. These bats are fast, direct, high fliers captured in the forest 8meters above the ground.
They roost in hollows of old trees, branches, and stumps. In addition, they’re usually in colonies of 5 to 30 bats. They feed on flying insects caught in the spaces between canopies and the understory of forest trees.
Most emballonurids are grey or brown. However, this family also includes whitish ghost bats and bats with two white stripes along the back.
This family’s bats are small to medium-sized, with smooth faces and lips that lack the noseleaves or nose decorations common in other bat groups.
Emballonurid’s ears are round, simple, and cup-shaped. They’re joined by a band of skin across the forehead, and a tragus is present.
Emballonurid bats shelter in caves, leaves, rocky crevices, ruins, houses, trees, and hollow logs. In addition, their roosts are more exposed than those of other bat families.
Some emballonurids live in year-round stable harems of one to eight females in territory patrolled by the male. This is referred to as resource defense polygyny. Other members of this family live alone or in colonies.
Lesser Long-eared Bat
The lesser long-eared bat is one of the types of bats in Australia. These bats occur in towns and suburbs. Also, they’re at risk from cats and pesticides.
Lesser Long-eared Bats roost in old tree hollows and cracks, under bark, and in old fairy marten nests. In suburban and urban environments, they frequently nest in ceilings, hollow walls, and abandoned roller doors. For nursery colonies, they like hollows of large, old eucalyptus trees.
Furthermore, these bats hunt close to the ground. They can catch flying insects in flight and snatch insects off the ground or leaves.
You can see them at night, swooping around streetlights and catching insects. They consume their prey while flying.
Eastern Tube-nosed Bat
This is a small to medium-sized bat with long, tubular nostrils and a short blunt snout. They have protruding eyes and yellow spots on the ears and wings.
Their fur is grey-brown on the back and paler at the bottom. A thin black stripe runs from the neck or mid-back to the rump. The tail is rather long, while the wings are short and broad.
Furthermore, they eat various native and exotic fruits, nectar, flowers, and pollen, and they play a significant role in seed dispersal and pollination. You can find them in tropical and subtropical rainforests, vine forests, tropical woodland, and heathland.
These bats are rainforest species that can roost alone or in small groups. Mating happens from July to September, with a single young born following a 3-3.5 month gestation period. They produce a distinctive high-pitched sound.
This specie of bat is among the different types of bats in Australia. Like other microchiropterans, these bats use echolocation to locate their prey.
It normally follows the same flight path every day, searching over ponds and gardens where insects are common. They feed on moths, mosquitoes, and other tiny insects.
This species is widespread in both towns and cities. It’s also common in parks and forests. You can find them in crevices outside buildings, behind shutters, and in unfinished houses during summer.
The Forest pipistrelle, like other bat species, plays a vital role in ecological systems. They are essential insect predators that help to keep insect populations in check.
Cape York Sheathtail Bat
Very little is known about these bats in Australia. They seem to roost in tree hollows, but they’re seen in limestone caves in New Guinea.
In addition, these bats eat flying ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and moths. They hunt for prey in open woodlands by flying straight and high over trees.
Cape York Sheathtail bats are vulnerable to the removal of roost sites in tree hollows due to agricultural clearing and changes to feeding areas.
We hope you enjoyed this article on the types of bats in Australia. These creatures play a vital role in keeping our environment clean. However, some of these species are endangered, but the governments are trying to protect them through various projects. Thanks for reading!