Ornate flying fox (Pteropus ornatus)

Ornate flying fox museum specimen
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Ornate flying fox fact file

Ornate flying fox description

GenusPteropus (1)

Named for its fox-like elongated snout and large eyes, the ornate flying fox (Pteropus ornatus) is a species of bat which varies greatly in colour, with soft fur that may be light buff to dark reddish-brown (2) (4). Typically the ornate flying fox has a pale-grey brown face and the back of the neck is tinged with pale yellow (4).

Like all members of the genus Pteropus, the ornate flying fox has simple, oval ears, a claw on the second finger and thumb, and lacks a tail (5). It has large, well-developed eyes (5) which, along with the excellent sense of smell, it uses to locate food (6). All flying foxes have a distinctive musky odour (2) (5).

Roussette Rousse.
Zorro Volador De Las Islas De La Leal.
Forearm length: 15 - 17 cm (2)

Ornate flying fox biology

An exclusively vegetarian species (7), the ornate flying fox feeds on tropical fruit and blossoms, including guava, mango, papaya, banana and passion fruit. It chews up the fruit and swallows the juice, spitting out the pulp and seeds (2). Due to their diet and feeding habits, flying foxes are considered to play an important role in seed dispersal for a great variety of plants (5).

During the day, this highly social species roosts in ‘camps’ of hundreds or, more rarely, thousands of individuals, which often spread over several acres of rainforest canopy. These camps are often used by generation after generation for many years and are rarely abandoned (2). Although nocturnal, there is constant movement and squabbling in the camps and during cold or rainy weather several bats may cluster together for protection (2).

The ornate flying fox reaches sexual maturity at two years old. A single young is born after a gestation period of about six months. After birth the pup stays with the female for three to four months, often sheltering under her wing during the day, and remaining at the roost at night while the female is away foraging (2).


Ornate flying fox range

The ornate flying fox is endemic to New Caledonia, a group of islands in the South Pacific, 1,200 kilometres east of Australia (2).


Ornate flying fox habitat

The ornate flying fox inhabits tropical and sub-tropical rainforest, from sea level up to at least 1,000 metres (2).


Ornate flying fox status

The ornate flying fox is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Ornate flying fox threats

Once considered to be relatively common (2), the ornate flying fox is now an endangered species, primarily due to hunting for food and habitat destruction (1). New Caledonia has the largest known deposits of nickel in the world and mining for this metal, combined with timber logging, has led to widespread deforestation and destruction of the bat’s habitat (8).

Disease also poses a threat to the ornate flying fox. In the 1960s a disease reportedly drastically reduced the number of ornate flying foxes (1).


Ornate flying fox conservation

The ornate flying fox is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3), which means that international trade in this species should be carefully monitored. Local legislation also provides a degree of protection, by placing limits on the number of bats any one hunter is allowed to kill and by allowing hunting only during a specific, short period. However, illegal trading and hunting of this threatened bat still takes place (1).


Find out more

Learn about conservation in New Caledonia:



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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ scientific species name; the second part is the specific name.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Active at night.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. Sanborn, C.C. and Nicholson, A.J. (1950) Bats from New Caledonia, the Solomon islands and New Hebrides. Fieldiana: Zoology, 31(36): 313-338.
  3. CITES (November, 2010)
  4. Gray, J.E. (1870) Catalogue of Monkeys, Lemurs and Fruit-eating Bats in the Collection of the British Museum. Taylor and Francis, London.
  5. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland. 
  6. Neuweiler, G. (2000)The Biology of Bats. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. Allen, G.M. (1962) Bats. Dover Publications, New York.
  8. Mittermeier, R.A., Robles-Gil, P., Hoffmann, M., Pilgrim, J.D., Brooks, T.M., Mittermeier, C.G., Lamoreux, J.L. and Fonseca, G. (2004) Hotspots Revisited: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Ecoregions. Cemex, Mexico City.

Image credit

Ornate flying fox museum specimen  
Ornate flying fox museum specimen

© ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv

ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv
ETH Zürich
ETH-Bibliothek, Spezialsammlungen
Raemistrasse 101


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