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Beautiful Bats - Creatures of the Night
Nightfall Brings Bats
Bats are a fascinating animal, sort of halfway between a bird and a small mammal. I've always liked them. There are many varieties around the world, but I'm going to concentrate on our Australian animals here.
Bats are creatures of the night, and can be seen coming out of their roosts at nightfall, often in their thousands. Many bats roost in caves when they are available, but trees will do just as well.
A flock of bats can be extremely noisy, squabbling, flapping their wings, and just chatting. Walking under a colony of bats during the daytime can be somewhat disconcerting, as they defecate from above. The smell in a roosting area can be dreadful. Fortunately, these animals are fairly nomadic as a rule, and go where the food is to be found. They have sometimes to be removed from urban areas, due to the damage to trees and gardens.
Gray Headed Flying Foxes
You can see a photo of these animals in the introduction image. Grey headed flying foxes are also known as fruit bats. Their Latin name is Pteropus poliocephalus, and they are found in Australia. This bat is one of the largest in the world. It has a collar of reddish fur all around its neck, and is the only bat to have this.
These bats are usually seen on the East coast of Australia, and move around depending on the availability of food.
There is some worry about these bats, and others, being carriers of rabies and other infections diseases, so they aren't popular with everyone.
Are you afraid of bats?
Megabats and Microbats
Bats come in two sizes megabats, and microbats. We have both in Australia, and probably the best known are the flying foxes, or fruit bats, which are megabats. Strangely, some megabats are smaller than some microbats!
Australia has six families of microbats, containing 58 species! I was really surprised to learn this, as I didn't know there were so many types. Some of these bats weigh as little as 2 grams, while the larger ones can be 150 grams or even a little more.
Microbats may scare many people, but they are a really useful animal, catching and eating half their body weight of insects each night. These are the bats which use echo-location to find their prey.
The photo above is of an unidentified microbat, and you can see how tiny it is by comparison with the hand.
Bats In The Home
Well, no, not really! I just have a few toy bats flying on the wall. They've been collected over the years, and they have to live somewhere, so why not use them for décor? They do fill an empty space above the TV.
Get ready for Halloween with these hanging bats. Put them over your doorway or in your house.
Bats En Masse
Bats tend to congregate in very large numbers, and this can cause a lot of damage to the trees they choose to roost in. They can also decimate fruit crops, which doesn't make them very popular with farmers.
Sometimes there may be over a million of these animals in one place. A few years ago, I visited Mataranka, in the Northern Territory of Australia, a very pretty spot with a natural spring. On this particular occasion, it wasn't that pretty, or even very pleasant.
There were bats everywhere, in the trees, on the ground, squabbling, flying, leaving droppings, and doing everything else that bats do during the day. It was quite smelly too!
There is a river nearby, and many fruit trees along the riverbank, which is why the bats were there in such numbers.
That particular flock was around the spring, and along the river bank, and was estimated to be over a million in size. The trees were in fruit, which is why they were there. Oh, yes, it was very noisy as well - have you ever been near that many bats? Even during the day, there were plenty of them awake and squeaking. Needless to say, I didn't have a swim in the spring on that occasion.
Nightfall Brings The Bats Out To Hunt
Bats In My Garden At Nightfall
Since I have a few fruit trees in my garden, the fruit bats make it a habit to call in when the fruit is ripening. Sometimes, I'm lucky to get any at all.
One dark evening, I came home, and decided to check on something in the garden, and walked down the path past the olive tree. Of course, I didn't put any lights on, as I know the path well.
As I passed under the olive tree, a huge shape shot out of the tree, and flapped away at high speed, giving me somewhat of a fright! The noise they make with their wings when taking off is surprising, as is their size at close quarters. This flying fox must have been within 12 inches of my head.
These animals can weigh up to 1 kg (2.2 lbs) and can have a wingspan of up to 1 metre (3'3"). Quite often, in warmer weather, they can be seen flying over my suburb, and I always enjoy seeing them.
Flying Fox, or Fruit Bat
How to live with bats in your area. They're really not scary at all!
Fijian Flying Foxes
Fijian Flying Foxes
I took this photo of a couple of Fijian flying foxes at Kula Eco Park, Fiji. They are one of the few native mammals on the islands.
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