Grey-headed flying-foxes are large, with a wingspan of up to a metre. They are the only Australian flying-fox species that has a collar of orange/brown fur fully encircling their neck. Their head and stomach is covered in light grey fur, sometimes with flecks of ginger. Fur on the back of adults is dark grey while juveniles have a frosted appearance. Grey-headed flying-foxes also have leg fur which extends to the ankle. This helps to distinguish this species from the similarly sized black flying-fox which has bare legs below the knee.
Grey-headed flying-foxes mostly feed on nectar and fruit. Important food plants include species such as Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora, melaleucas, banksias and species of Syzygium. They will also supplement their diets with leaves. They have been known to travel up to 50km in one night foraging for food.
Grey-headed flying-foxes roost in large aggregations, known as camps. Females generally reach sexual maturity in their second year and will only bear one young per year. Breeding season generally occurs in early autumn and after 6 months gestation the live young are born in spring. For a 1-2 month period, the young will be carried with the mother, clinging to her during nightly flights in search of nectar. Once a little bit older, they are left in the camp or ‘crèches’. Young are weaned when they are five to six months old.
The grey-headed flying-fox has suffered major population decline over the last decade and are listed as 'Vulnerable' under the NSW Biodiversity conservation Act 2016 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The biggest threat to the species is habitat loss resulting in fewer roosting and foraging opportunities.
Grey headed flying-foxes are important in the fertilisation and seed distribution of eucalypt species over large areas, playing a significant role in maintaining vegetation communities. This is especially important in urban and fragmented environments, as they can fly freely between patches of forest and woodland.
What’s the difference between a flying-fox and a bat?
Flying-fox, fruit-bat, microbat; they are all given the general name bat and are a part of the same order; Chiroptera. However there are two suborders; megabats and microbats, which are very very different.
Flying-foxes, like the grey-headed flying-fox, are a part of the megabat group; as their name suggests they are large, they generally eat fruit and nectar and do not use echolocation to locate their food.
Microbats are small, generally insectivorous and use echolocation to locate their prey.
Flying-Foxes in Ku-ring-gai
Ku-ring-gai is home to an important maternal colony of the grey-headed flying-fox, located in the Ku-ring-gai Flying-fox Reserve, Gordon.
The colony consists on average of about 30,000 to 40,000 bats during summer. During the winter months the population may drop to a few dozen bats or even no bats at all as they leave the reserve to feed on flowering trees elsewhere in NSW or as far north as Queensland.
The grey-headed flying-fox is a declining protected species listed as 'Vulnerable' under the NSW Biodvierstu Conservation Act 2016 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
It is an offence to harm threatened species or their habitat. Large fines and/or prison sentences may apply.
Flying-foxes and Microbats Fact Sheet 2013.pdf (pdf. 420KB)
Ku-ring-gai Flying-fox Reserve
Management of the Reserve
Ku-ring-gai Flying-fox Reserve is subject to a long-term Conservation Agreement with the NSW Government. The Reserve is managed in accordance with this agreement and the Ku-ring-gai Flying-fox Reserve Management Plan 2013.
Conservation Agreement (PDF) (pdf. 530KB)
Ku-ring-gai Flying-Fox Reserve Management Plan 2013.pdf (pdf. 44MB)
Access to the Reserve
Access to the Reserve is restricted. This is to prevent disturbance to the breeding bats, the surrounding neighbours and possible safety issues.
The Reserve is located in a narrow gully surrounded by rock cliffs. Access is via steep slippery surfaces with two entry points only.
The best time to view the bats flying is at dusk during the warmer months, from the bridge located on Rosedale Road near Minns Road, Gordon. Interpretive signs are located at this point.
Pets are not allowed in the Reserve.
To visit the Reserve, for research or other purposes, please contact Council's Natural Areas Officer on 9424 0000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ku-ring-gai Flying-fox Reserve map (484KB) (pdf. 484KB)
Ku-ring-gai Bat Conservation Society
The Ku-ring-gai Bat Conservation Society (KBCS) was established in 1985 and runs a long-term habitat restoration project. The Society has also produced a number of publications in collaboration with Council and conducts interpretive walks and talks.
Ku-ring-gai Bat Conservation Society website
Flying-fox counts KFFR-2009-2013 (56KB) (doc. 1MB)
Monitoring and mapping
Each month experienced volunteers in collaboration with Ku-ring-gai Council and KBCS conduct fly out counts at strategic locations surrounding the reserve. This data provides a long term indication of the population and fluctuations of the flying-foxes in the camp. Additionally, Council map where grey-headed flying-foxes are roosting within the camp to better understand how flying-foxes use the Ku-ring-gai Flying Fox Reserve.
If you are interested in helping with fly-out counts you can contact Council’s Natural Areas Officer on 02 9424 0000.
Other relevant management plans for Grey-headed Flying-foxes
NSW Priority Actions Statements
Department of the Environment and Energy
Australian Government Recovery Plans
Australian Government Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-Fox
Grey-headed flying-fox species profile
The Action Plan for Australian Bats
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH)
Final Determination - Grey-headed flying-fox
Species Profile - Grey-headed flying-fox
Detailed Species Profile - Grey-headed flying-fox
Priority Action Statement for bats in NSW
Flying fox camp management policy in NSW
Flying fox camps fact sheet- NSW
Living with Grey-headed Flying Foxes in urban areas
Why was the Grey-headed flying-fox listed as vulnerable? How does this affect me? - NSW
Other Government bat websites
CSIRO - Bat Lyssavirus
Non-Government organisation resources
Ku-ring-gai Bat Conservation Society
Australasian Bat Society
Ku-ring-gai Flying-fox Reserve report on Habitat Restoration Project.pdf (pdf. 6MB)