Flying foxes

Flying-foxes are native to Australia and play a critical ecological role. They disperse rainforest seeds and cross-pollinate the flowers of native species over significant distances, helping to maintain genetic diversity. This role is particularly important in fragmented landscapes such as the Gold Coast, where native forest patches are smaller and isolated from continuous forest areas.

Three species of flying-foxes inhabit our region.

Grey-headed flying-foxes

Grey headed flying fox
Photo: Steve Parish

(Pteropus poliocephalus) generally roost in coastal areas near watercourses or wetlands. They can be spotted during the day in the lower to middle part of the tree canopy. They are listed as 'vulnerable' by the Australian Government, due to habitat loss and long-term population declines.

Little red flying-foxes

Little red flying fox
Photo: Todd Burrows

(P. scapulatus) are the smallest of the 3 species. They migrate from tropical north Queensland to the Gold Coast during the summer months. Colonies may arrive in relatively low numbers and their visits are short, lasting only a few months.

Black flying-foxes

Black flying fox
Photo: Steve Parish

(P. alecto) can be spotted roosting in the upper parts of the tree canopy during the day, often in the same trees as the grey-headed. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to high temperatures. Large numbers of heat-related deaths may occur when temperatures rise above 42°C.

Urban roosts & odours

Flying-foxes are most active at night, flying up to 50 kilometres in search of food. Their numbers at roost sites rise and fall throughout the year as they move between areas, so don't be surprised if they're present one day and gone the next.

The odour at roost sites plays an important communication role among them. The smell is not from their faeces but the male's scent gland, which they use to mark their territories. It is enhanced during the breeding season, when they are disturbed and pushed into another male's branch, or when newcomers arrive in the roost. While the odour may be unpleasant to us, it does not pose a health risk.

Flying-fox droppings are mostly found where they eat, rather than where they sleep. Exposure to bat and flying-fox faeces or urine is not considered a health risk. The same hygiene approach we use for other animals should be used for flying-fox droppings.

Urban noise

Flying-foxes feed at night. If you see or hear them near your home at night, they should move on once there is no more food.

If you notice an increase in noise at your local flying-fox roost in January, February and March, it is because the males are claiming territories and breeding is occurring. After months, females give birth, typically between September and late October.

Health concerns

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronaviruses exist in many animals such as bats, rodents, camels and cats. They can pass from animals to humans. While the origin of COVID-19 is unknown, there doesn't appear to be a connection with Australian flying-foxes. For information and advice on COVID-19 affecting people, refer to Queensland Health.

Australian bat lyssavirus

Flying-foxes may carry bacteria and viruses that can be harmful to humans, but Queensland Health advises the risk of an infection of lyssavirus is low. Less than 1% of flying-foxes are infected. The virus can only be transmitted to humans by bites, scratches or saliva into an open wound. If you are bitten or scratched by a flying-fox, wash the wound thoroughly, apply antiseptic and seek immediate medical help. Additional information can be obtained from Queensland Health.

Hendra virus

Flying-foxes are the natural host for the Hendra virus, which is a horse disease. People cannot catch it from flying-foxes – infection results from close contact with an infected horse's blood, body fluids and tissues. The Queensland Government provides useful information for protection against Hendra virus.

Sick, injured, orphaned or dead flying-fox

Do not handle flying-foxes under any circumstance. Should you find a sick, injured or orphaned flying-fox contact:

To report dead bats in City parks, along footpaths or roads, please email our Waste Management Unit at or call 07 5667 5976.

To report dead animals on major roads (motorways and highways), contact the Queensland Government's Department of Transport and Main Roads on 13 19 40.

As the landowner, you can remove a dead flying-fox, if you follow simple safety steps:

  • do not touch it
  • make sure it is dead (if still alive, call the numbers above)
  • wear thick gloves and use a shovel or tongs to place it in a plastic bag
  • put that in your general rubbish bin or take to a landfill.

Management of flying-foxes

Flying-foxes are protected under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992. Approval is needed to disturb or attempt to relocate them. Doing so without permission can lead to considerable fines.

We can only manage flying-fox roosts that are located on Council land in accordance with our Statement of Flying-fox Management Intent(PDF, 1MB).

If you are experiencing significant disturbance associated with a roost on Council-managed land, please contact us via email at or phone 07 5667 5990.

We do not manage flying-foxes and their habitat on private or State-owned land. Private landholders can conduct flying-fox management on their land in accordance with the Queensland Government's Authorised flying-fox roost management.