Bats vs. Flying Fox

What's the Difference?

Bats and flying foxes are both fascinating creatures belonging to the order Chiroptera, but they have distinct differences. Bats are generally smaller in size, with a wingspan ranging from a few inches to a foot, while flying foxes are much larger, with wingspans that can reach up to six feet. Bats have a diverse diet, feeding on insects, fruits, nectar, and even blood in the case of vampire bats, whereas flying foxes primarily consume fruits and nectar. Another notable distinction is their habitat preference; bats are known to roost in caves, trees, or man-made structures, while flying foxes tend to form large colonies in trees or mangroves. Despite these disparities, both bats and flying foxes play crucial roles in pollination and seed dispersal, making them essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems.


Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash
AttributeBatsFlying Fox
FamilyVespertilionidae, Pteropodidae, etc.Pteropodidae
WingspanVaries (up to 6 feet)Varies (up to 6 feet)
WeightVaries (up to 3.5 pounds)Varies (up to 3.5 pounds)
FlightPowered flightPowered flight
FoodInsects, fruits, nectar, bloodFruits, nectar, pollen
HabitatVarious habitats (caves, trees, etc.)Tropical and subtropical forests
RoostingCaves, trees, buildingsTrees, caves
Conservation StatusVaries (some endangered)Varies (some endangered)
Flying Fox
Photo by Nils Bouillard on Unsplash

Further Detail


Bats and flying foxes are fascinating creatures that belong to the order Chiroptera, which means "hand-wing" in Greek. While both are mammals and share certain similarities, they also have distinct differences that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the attributes of bats and flying foxes, highlighting their physical characteristics, habitats, feeding habits, and social behaviors.

Physical Characteristics

Bats and flying foxes both possess unique adaptations that allow them to fly. However, there are notable differences in their physical characteristics. Bats are generally smaller in size, with a wingspan ranging from a few inches to around 6 feet. They have elongated fingers covered by a thin membrane of skin, forming their wings. On the other hand, flying foxes are larger, with some species having a wingspan of up to 6 feet. Their wings are more robust and are connected to their elongated arms and fingers.

Another distinguishing feature is their facial structure. Bats have a more pointed snout, while flying foxes have a fox-like face with a rounded snout. Additionally, bats have a wide range of colors and patterns on their fur, whereas flying foxes typically have a uniform coloration, often varying from shades of brown to black.


Bats and flying foxes can be found in various habitats across the world, but they tend to prefer different environments. Bats are incredibly diverse and can adapt to a wide range of habitats, including caves, forests, deserts, and even urban areas. They are known for their ability to roost in dark and secluded places during the day, such as caves or the attics of buildings.

Flying foxes, on the other hand, are primarily found in tropical and subtropical regions, particularly in Asia, Australia, and Africa. They are commonly associated with forests, mangroves, and coastal areas. These fruit bats often roost in large colonies, hanging from trees or in the branches of dense vegetation.

Feeding Habits

Both bats and flying foxes are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are active during the night. However, their feeding habits differ significantly. Bats have a diverse diet, with some species being insectivorous, while others are frugivorous, nectarivorous, or even carnivorous. Insectivorous bats play a crucial role in controlling insect populations, consuming thousands of insects each night. Frugivorous bats, on the other hand, feed on fruits and play a vital role in seed dispersal and pollination.

Flying foxes, as their name suggests, primarily feed on fruits, nectar, and flowers. They have a long snout and a well-developed sense of smell, allowing them to locate ripe fruits and nectar-rich flowers. Their diet consists mainly of fruits such as figs, bananas, and mangoes. Due to their feeding habits, flying foxes are considered important pollinators and seed dispersers in their ecosystems.

Social Behaviors

Bats and flying foxes exhibit different social behaviors, influenced by their habitats and feeding habits. Bats are known for their diverse social structures, ranging from solitary species to those that form large colonies. Some bats, like the famous vampire bats, even exhibit cooperative behaviors, sharing food with other members of their group.

Flying foxes, on the other hand, are highly social animals that form large colonies, sometimes consisting of thousands of individuals. These colonies provide protection against predators and allow for efficient foraging and communication. Within the colonies, flying foxes establish a hierarchical structure, with dominant individuals having priority access to food and roosting sites.

Conservation Status

Both bats and flying foxes face various threats to their survival, including habitat loss, climate change, and hunting. Many bat species are currently endangered or vulnerable due to the destruction of their natural habitats and the spread of diseases like white-nose syndrome. Conservation efforts are crucial to protect these remarkable creatures and the essential ecological roles they play.

Flying foxes, particularly certain species like the grey-headed flying fox, are also facing significant conservation challenges. Habitat destruction, disturbance of roosting sites, and conflicts with humans over fruit crops have led to population declines. Protecting their habitats and implementing measures to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts are essential for the conservation of flying foxes.


In conclusion, while bats and flying foxes share the ability to fly and belong to the same order, they have distinct differences in their physical characteristics, habitats, feeding habits, and social behaviors. Bats are generally smaller, have a wider range of colors, and adapt to various habitats, while flying foxes are larger, have a more uniform coloration, and are primarily found in tropical regions. Bats have a diverse diet, including insects, fruits, and even blood, while flying foxes primarily feed on fruits and nectar. Bats exhibit diverse social structures, while flying foxes form large colonies with hierarchical structures. Both species face conservation challenges and require efforts to protect their habitats and ensure their survival for the benefit of ecosystems worldwide.

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