Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Straw-Colored Fruit Bat

Eidolon helvum


The straw-colored fruit bat is one of the largest species of fruit bat. This species has a straw-colored neck and back, the front of the body is a brown or grey. The straw-colored bat has a large pointed head and large eyes. They have large, narrow wings to carry these bats over long distances. The males are generally larger than the females.


This bat can be found in most of sub-Saharan Africa in the forest and savannah and also the southwestern Arabian Peninsula and Madagascar. Migration patterns incorporate southern Africa, south of Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. This species is the most widely distributed African fruit bat. They prefer tropical forests because of the abundant food sources. The straw-colored fruit bat roosts in tall trees and caves.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Feeding occurs in small groups that leave the colony at night to search for food. The colonies will forage a range of about 30 kilometers. This species hang by the phalanges of the feet to feed. The diet consists of fruit including; mangoes, avocado, pear, figs, passion fruit, custard apples and loquats. The straw-colored fruit bat does not consume the entire fruit; this bat chews the fruit to a pulp and sucks the juice from the pulp and spitting out the pulp. A similar method is used for obtaining water; the fruit bats chew on small chunks of soft wood to suck water from the pulp.


Mating occurs during the dry season between April and June. The implantation may be delayed up to 5 months depending on conditions because the reproductive system responds to rainfall to allow for plenty of food availability when young are weaned. After a gestation period of 4 months (given rainfall conditions do not delay implantation) the females give birth to a single offspring in February or March. This species is altricial (needing extra care from the mother) and cannot fly at birth. All bats are mammals; the female nurses the offspring until it is able to forage for food on its own.

Months and Times of Activity

Straw-colored fruit bats are mostly nocturnal, feeding at night, but are also active during the day at the roost. Migrations occur from season to season, leaving when food sources are low in a particular area. Straw-colored fruit bat colonies stay together during migration; these colonies leaving roosts to migrate are very large and can reach numbers of 100,000-1,000,000 individuals.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    This species is capable of flying at higher altitudes than other species of fruit bats.

•    The straw-colored fruit bat flies in straight lines.

•    Because they feed in such large colonies, this species is sometimes considered a crop pest because they can affect the productivity of fruit plantations.

•    This species visits flowers and play an active role in pollination and seed dispersal.

•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Bonita the Fruit Bat Counts to Ten


Ruiz, K. 2002. "Eidolon helvum" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at