North Queensland Naturalist 47 (2017): 32-42

Large, temporary camps of the Little Red Flying-fox at Herberton

 

Donald C. Franklin, Terry A. Barnes and Kate Prout

Abstract

The Little Red Flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus) is the ultimate nomadic nectarivore of woodlands and open forests, tracking mass-flowering of eucalypts and other trees over great distances and forming large, temporary day-time camps (roosts) where food is available in quantity. We here report the formation and subsequent disbandment of two such camps along the Wild River in the town of Herberton in north Queensland. The camps were present in the warmer months of 2013/14 and 2016/17 and were associated with unusually extensive flowering of a number of local eucalypts and especially the Inland White Mahogany (Eucalyptus mediocris syn. E. portuensis). In both periods, the camps occupied, at their peak, more than 500 m of riparian vegetation, and flying-foxes roosted in at least 32 plant species ranging from tall trees to 3-m shrubs. The basis for population estimates are scant, but it is suspected that numbers peaked at c. 50,000 to 100,000 in 2013/14 and c. 10,000 to 15,000 in 2016/17. The occurrence of these large camps in Herberton was short-lived and unusual, and coincided with the mating season. We argue that these events are ecologically important and fascinating, and should be viewed as an asset to the town.