Twinkle twinkle great big bat

[Back to my Nepal and India trip..]

On the road between Nepal and the Indian border the driver suddenly pulled over on the verge, and pointed up.

Flying foxes

High in the trees there were hundreds of Indian Flying Foxes, Pteropus giganteus, one of the largest bats in the world. Like most bats they are nocturnal, but they seem to be quite alert even in the daytime. The odd one was flying around: their wing span can reach 1.5m, or nearly 5 feet.

Flying foxes

They huddle together in small groups for warmth (the mornings are cold in November):

Flying foxes

They wrap up inside their wings to keep the wind out, like the one on the lower left here:

Flying foxes

They have five claws on their remarkable feet, and claws on the ‘thumbs’ of their wings too:

Flying foxes

At the end of this post you can see a drawing of the wing anatomy.

And if I rotate one of the photos, you can see where they get their name:

Flying foxes

They are fructivores, sucking the juice and discarding the pulp.  Although they damage fruit farms, they also pollinate the trees. They are common in India, and essentially harmless, but they do carry disease, particularly the deadly Nipah virus, which can be transmitted to humans who collect and drink the date palm sap from near their roosts. One of the worst outbreaks was in Siliguri, not far from Darjeeling, where we spent a few days.

PS This drawing of the wing anatomy shows the claws on the feet and the wing joints:



*My title comes from Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where the Mad Hatter sings:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.


3 thoughts on “Twinkle twinkle great big bat”

  1. A tea tray? More like a raptor, never saw a tea tray with clawed handles (although there may be some with claw feet).


  2. I think they are so beautiful. It makes me sad to think that they are probably persecuted for their innocent crime of harboring viruses. Unfortunately ebola is known to come from bats in Africa. I wonder if this is how the Dracula myth came about–the association with potentially deadly disease coming from these lovely creatures.


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