Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bats in Your Backyard

Grey Headed Flying Fox

The bat is a fascinating creature that has appeared in the belief systems, art, literature, film and even recipes of people for centuries. You might not realise it, but bats will probably have visited your backyard at some stage this year. There are 966 species of bat in the world, and 90 of those are found in Australia. They come in all sizes, from a tiny Malaysian bat the size of a bumble-bee, to a huge bat from New Guinea with a wing span of almost 2 metres (6'). The fossil record shows that bats evolved as flying animals at least 60 million years ago. They are the only mammals that can fly, and the bone structure of their wings resembles that of an elongated human arm and hand. Bats are divided into two major groups, the megabats and the microbats.


Members of the megabat group eat mostly fruit. There are 12 species in Australia including the Flying-fox, which can be seen by day hanging from branches in camps or communal roosts. At night some species fly up to 30 kilometres to their feeding areas, and some migrate as far as 1000 kilometres each year as they follow the flowering of eucalypts. There are also smaller fruit bats, for example tube-nosed bats and blossom bats. Fruit bats have sharp eyesight, and their sense of smell is so acute they can detect a tiny piece of banana from 100 metres (330') away.


These bats eat mostly insects, they have small eyes and they rely mainly on sound (echolocation) for navigation. They are small in size and weigh from about 3-100 grams.

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