Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Indian Flying Fox

We visited the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, near Kandy, Sri Lanka, and I had one of the most amazing wildlife experiences I've ever had, what we often refer to as a "National Geographic" experience. It was morning and hundreds of birds were flying and making lots of noise. We walked closer to investigate what they were and I realized these were not birds, but bats, with the unmistakable Batman-shaped wings very noticeable in flight. I started taking photos of them in flight and then noticed that they were flying into and out of trees. Then I noticed them hanging from branches, hundreds and hundreds of them, and they were huge! I probably spent 45 minutes watching and taking photos and Judy had to pry me away to look at other things. 
Indian flying foxes. I have lightened the wings in some of my pictures to reflect the arms and veins in them. In reality, many of the flying bats looked all black, while some looked this brownish color, depending on how the sunlight was reflecting on them.  

In September 2002 a study was made of the Indian flying fox colony of bats in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. The roosting bats were counted on two successive days and numbered about 24,480 bats on 279 trees (not every tree has bats), covering an area of about one-third of the gardens. The number of bats per tree (in trees that held bats) was a low of 10 and a high of 1,200. It was suggested that Peradeniya may contain the largest colony of Indian flying foxes in the world. 
Roosting bats taking flight. 

There are 60 plus species of flying foxes or fruit bats.  The Indian flying fox, also known as the greater Indian fruit bat, is one of the largest bats in the world. It is found in much of South Asia, including Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, China (Tibet), Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives. It prefers to roost on tall trees in close proximity to water, human residences and farmland. 
They eat fruit and drink nectar from flowers, particularly mango in season, but also flowers, seed pods, bark, cones and twigs. Roosts are continually used for upwards of ten years and the article cited above noted that Peradeniya has been noted as a place for roosting Indian flying foxes since the 1880s. It has a black back, lightly streaked with gray, a yellow/brown mantle, a brown head and dark brownish underparts. It has large eyes, small ears, can weigh up to 3.5 pounds, and can have a wing span just short of five feet. 

Surprisingly to me, they do not echolocate, but rely on sight to navigate. They have binocular vision and eyes that are adapted to seeing in low-light conditions. 
Later on, I believe near Wirawila Lake, we stopped near the entrance which had trees lining it. Our guide Sanjay showed us Indian fruit bats in the trees which were not has high as those in the Botanical Garden. I was able to get a few photos with more detail of the bats. 
Roosting bats wrapped in their cape-like wings. 

1 comment:

  1. You say they don't echolate, but it was very noisy under those trees. They must have been making the noise. The thing I was most surprised by is that the ground was not covered with guano.