The Largest Bat in the World Has a Wingspan Over 5 Feet

By: Zach Taras  | 
Large bat flying past a tree with green leaves in daytime
The large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) has a wingspan that reaches up to 59 inches (150 cm) — and it's not even the biggest bat out there. Erik Zandboer / Shutterstock

Bats are fascinating and often misunderstood creatures. These flying mammals can be found all over the world, often flitting with astonishing speed and intricacy through the dusk sky.

Most bat species are relatively small, but some can get quite large, which might prompt the following question, whether out of fear or fascination: What is the largest bat in the world?


7 of the Largest Flying Foxes, aka Fruit Bats

Contrary to bats' reputation of being small, rodent-like flying creatures with somewhat unsettling features, the flying fox species are, as their name suggests, reminiscent of foxes, with pronounced snouts and fur that ranges from red to brown to black and white.

Their alternative name is similarly descriptive: fruit bats (since they often feed on fruit, flowers and nectar). Many of these are among the largest bat species in the world, so they deserve their own category.


7. Black Flying Fox

The black flying fox (Pteropus alecto) is a species found in Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. They have a wingspan that can exceed 39.6 inches (100 cm). These bats feed on pollen and nectar in their tropical habitat.

6. Great Flying Fox

The great flying fox (Pteropus neohibernicus), also known as the Bismarck flying fox, has a wingspan of up to 39 to 47 inches (100 to 120 cm). These bats are endemic to New Guinea, where they forage in the day and night for fruit to eat.

While not considered an endangered species, they are nonetheless under threat from hunting.

5. Madagascan Flying Fox

The Madagascan flying fox (Pteropus rufus), can have wingspans of 39 to 49 inches (100 to 125 cm). They are native to Madagascar, and as their alternative name of Madagascan fruit bat suggests, they get their sustenance mainly from fruit. (The scientific words for this are fructivorous or frugivorous.)

4. Livingstone’s Fruit Bat

The Livingstone’s fruit bat (Pteropus livingstonii) is an especially rare flying fox species, found exclusively in the Anjouan and Mohéli Islands. These bats have a wingspan of 55 inches (140 cm) and are notable for being active during daylight hours.

3. Indian Flying Fox

With a wingspan that ranges from 47 to 59 inches (120 to 150 cm), the Indian flying fox (Pteropus medius) is the largest bat native to the Indian subcontinent.

While mostly frugivorous, this flying fox species has been observed eating insects. Although they are sometimes considered a pest because of their feasting on fruit farms, their feeding habits also help distribute the seeds of these fruits.

2. Large Flying Fox

Runner-up for the title of largest bat by wingspan, the large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) — also called the greater flying fox, the Malaysian flying fox and the kalang — is another imposing species that eats fruit, nectar and flowers. Its wingspan often reaches 59 inches (150 cm).

1. Great Golden Crowned Flying Fox

Sitting in the No. 1 spot is the great golden crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus), with an average wingspan of 59 to 67 inches (150 to 170 cm).

Also called the golden-capped fruit bat or the giant golden crowned flying fox, the species is currently considered endangered. In its native habitat of the Philippines, its survival is threatened by illegal hunting and deforestation.


5 of the Largest Non-fruit Bats

Flying foxes aren't the only bats with large wingspans. Here are five other species of rather large bats.

5. Greater Horseshoe Bat

The greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) has a wingspan of 14 to 16 inches (35 to 40 cm).


The species, whose range stretches from Europe, to North Africa and East Asia, is easily identified by its distinctive nose, which is pointed at the top and rounded on the bottom — like the horseshoe shape of its name. It feeds on nocturnal insects, moths in particular.

4. Greater Noctule Bat

The greater noctule bat (Nyctalus lasiopterus) is the largest bat found in Europe, with a wingspan of 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 cm). It is a carnivorous bat that uses echolocation to hunt its prey, which includes birds.

While other bat species who prey on birds do so while the birds are roosting, the greater noctule bat hunts them on the wing, snatching them in midair.

3. Greater Spear-nosed Bat

This species of bat (Phyllostomus hastatus) is found in Central and South America and boasts a wingspan of 18 inches (55 cm). The greater spear-nosed Bat is omnivorous; while it does sometimes eat birds and small mammals, its usual diet is mostly fruits, nectar, seeds, pollen and insects.

2. Spectral Bat

Possibly the species of bat with the coolest-sounding name, the spectral bat (Vampyrum spectrum) is the largest bat in the Americas, with an average wingspan of 27.6 to 39.6 inches (70 to 100cm).

Despite the genus name, the spectral bat is not in fact sanguivorous (consuming blood). It is a carnivore, however, and hunts for smaller birds and mammals.

1. Hammer-headed Bat

The hammer-headed Bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) is found in Western and Central Africa and has a wingspan of 39.6 inches (100 cm).

This species is notably sexually dimorphic, which means that the females and males are strikingly different in appearance. This is especially pronounced in the face, where the male of the species has a large resonance chamber that helps it produce its startlingly loud vocalizations.


Are Bats Friendly to Humans?

Like any species, bats are critical members of their ecosystems. Despite this, humans have a complicated relationship to bats.

While bats are rarely a direct threat to humans, they can serve as vectors for a number of diseases, including Ebola, rabies and Marburg virus. However, this is usually due to the fact that the bats carrying these diseases are often hunted for food (called “bushmeat”).


For the sake of the environment that both humans and bats share, these flying animals need to be protected. There are several groups committed to this cause, including many government conservation agencies in the countries where specific species are found. There are also international agencies such as Bat Conservation International, an NGO committed to protecting bats worldwide.