Urban Wildlife - Bats

pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) © David Dillon

Fascinating Fact about Bats

There are many mistaken beliefs about bats, giving them an undeserved, sinister reputation. Bats are nocturnal, which may be why there are so many myths. In fact they are mammals like cats, dogs, or humans and never harm children or pets, or get entangled in long hair and are not blind. They are clean, gentle, intelligent and very useful, eating large numbers of insect pests.

All about Bats

What to look for

Bats are the only mammals that can fly, although other species can glide from trees. The fingers of bats are specially adapted to support wings of leathery skin, which are their most obvious feature. They are small animals, with fur-covered bodies, small eyes, prominent ears and clawed hind-limbs.

When and where to see

Different species of bat live in different habitat types, some prefer woods, others prefer to be close to water bodies such as rivers and lakes. They are most easily seen at dusk and at night in spring and summer, fl ying in search of insects. Bats do hibernate during the winter months, though they may occasionally leave their hibernation roost to hunt. Bats roost in all kinds of buildings, caves, hollow trees and sometimes behind tree bark where it has started to peel away. They can be seen emerging from these roosts in the evenings. Individual roosts are not usually occupied throughout the whole year, as each roost serves a particular purpose, such as a nursery or winter hibernaculum. Bats prefer clean, draught-free buildings, disliking dust and cobwebs.

Did you know

  • All species of bat in the UK feed only on insects, particularly moths, mosquitoes and other flies.  Keeping airborne requires a lot of energy and the tiny common pipistrelle (our smallest species) can eat up to 3000 insects in one night!
  • Bats fi nd their food using echolocation; as they fly they make high-pitched sounds and this noise bounces off any obstacles in their way to produce an echo. This echo gives them detailed information on their prey, including the size and shape and in which direction they are travelling. The frequency of the sound is too high for humans to hear, but modern bat detectors can convert these sounds to an audible frequency.
  • In the spring, the females gather together in colonies known as nursery roosts, where each gives birth to a single young in June. Naked and blind at first, the young bat grows quickly, nourished on a diet of rich milk from its mother. By August it is fully weaned and able to fl y and forage for itself. In winter bats need cool sites with high humidity in order to conserve energy by slowing down their metabolism. Winter roosts include caves, tunnels, and old mine workings.
  • There are 18 species of bat in Britain, 8 of which have been recorded in Nottingham city! Many of our bat species are now rare and confined to southern England. Pesticides and the loss of woodland, hedgerows and pastures have reduced the availability of insects for food, and sites for
    roosting.
  • The most common urban bat is the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). The biggest threat to urban bats is loss of roost sites as houses and industrial sites are modernised.

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