How populous are bats?
Bats make up about 1/4 of all mammal species on Earth and there are more than 1,100 individual species of them. However, please note that many species of bats are highly endangered.
How do we classify bats?
Bats are classified in the Order Chiroptera (kie-rop-ter-ah), meaning “hand wing” – therefore, a bat scientist is called a Chiroptologist. Bats have backbones - they are in the Phylum "Chordata." Bats are mammals - they are in the Class "Mammalia."
Are bats related to mice or rats?
No, bats are most closely related to primates, despite appearing to look like rodents. Bats are not related to birds either, even though they can fly.
Where do bats live?
These creatures live all over the world, aside from in the Arctic and Antarctic. They can live in a variety of places, too – from trees to garden sheds to caves, to underneath bridges to inside specially constructed bat houses.
How long do bats live?
Some species of bats live up to 45 years of age, but most live an average of 20-25 years. Bats are among one of the longest living small mammals. Surprisingly, male usually live longer than females.
Bats are the world’s only true flying mammals and they can soar at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, with the wind in their favor. However, usually bats fly between 10-15 miles per hour. The highest up a bat will typically venture is about two miles above the ground. Although bats, like birds, can fly, they do not have hollow bones, as birds do.
If bats are related to primates, why can't they walk upright?
Because they have very tiny and fragile hipbones, they cannot walk on their back legs, like a person can. They can crawl by pulling themselves with their claws and pushing with their back legs though. Remember though, bats (other than Vampire bats) have absolutely no reason to be on the ground – they are either flying or hanging upside down roosting. It is extremely difficult for a grounded bat to take flight again.
What is a group of bats called? What are male/female/baby bats called?
A colony is a group of bats. Male and female bats do not have specific "titles," such as 'stallion' or 'mare' like a horse would have. A baby bat is called a pup.
What kind of senses do bats have?
Bats are NOT blind. They can see about as well as people can – and they see in color, as well. Besides having good eyesight, they possess good hearing, too. They can hear much better than dogs can and use high frequencies (echolocation), like dolphins and whales do. African heart-nosed bats, for example, can detect the soft footsteps of a beetle walking on sand from a distance of more than six feet. Most bats possess a fairly keen sense of smell, used to identify one another and find food.
Do all bats use echolocation?
No, only some species do. Megabats (AKA "fruit bats" or "flying foxes"), aside from the Egyptian Fruit Bat, do not use echolocation. Microbats, such as Big Brown Bats and Vampire bats use echolocation, a type of sonar, as dolphins and whales do.
Are bats filthy animals?
No, bats are not dirty, as they spend a majority of their time, like cats, cleaning and grooming their fur and faces. They hang by one foot at a time, using the other foot, as well as their tongues to clean their fur and wings. Some species even groom each other, like gorillas or chimpanzees do! They are not ugly animals either. Many people think they resemble deer, bears, and even dogs, upon closer inspection.
What is the largest/smallest species of bat?
The world's smallest bat, as well as the world’s smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat, which weighs less than a penny. The world’s largest bat is the Lyle's flying fox of Indonesia, which has a wingspan of nearly six feet. Most bats in the North America are between 1-3 inches in length though, with wingspans of only about 14 inches.
What kinds of bats live in the United States?
In the United States, there are (debatable) 45 species of bats, seven of which are critically endangered. About 40% of bats in the Americas are listed as being in "severe declination of population" or as "endangered." Bats are vulnerable to extinction because they are one of the slowest in reproduction of all small mammals, having only one pup per year. Vampire bats only live in Central and South America. The most common species of bats in the United States is the Little Brown Bat, which has a maximum wingspan of just 10 inches. All bat species in the US, but three (fruit eaters), dine on insects.
Are bats intelligent?
Bats are intelligent and seem to be fast learners. In captivity, they usually cooperate well with their handlers and can even learn to come when called. They require enrichment in their environments, much like parrots or primates do. They may play with baby toys and look in mirrors, displaying great curiosity. Bats of other species may sometimes be kept together; due to the fact most are compatible.
Each animal has a unique personality – some are shy, while others seem to enjoy being held by their handlers. It is widely speculated that bats do indeed learn to recognize the faces of certain people – such as veterinarians and the people who feed them. Missy Young, a bat specialist at Texas A&M University writes, “Bats are very sensitive, intelligent animals that have very good cognitive reasoning skills. Some of our bats are know for their special personalities.”
Can bats use tools?
Yes, some species of fruit bats build "tents" to roost out of under large leaves. They nibble on the thick veins of the plant until it collapses to form a "roof."
What do bats eat?
About 70% of bat species eat insects, while the remaining bats eat fruit and or nectar from plants. Some species of bats eat small frogs or mice, making them carnivores. Only three species of bats feed on blood. For more about what bats eat, click here.
Do bats live in nests, like birds?
No, bats live in "roosts." A roost can be anything from a cave to a hole in a tree, just anywhere that a bat may call home.
What do bats do during wintertime?
Some types of bats hibernate, like bears do. They eat excessive amounts of food to be stored over winter and go to sleep in a hollow tree or cave until spring. Other species may migrate as far as 1,000 miles in search of a warmer climate. Obviously, bats that live in the hot rain forests or tropical jungles do not have migrate or hibernate.
Most bats become sexually active at around 1-3 years of age. During the fall and winter, when they are not hibernating, bats mate. Some bats do not have a particular mating season. Male bats may mate with as many 30 females per year. In the spring or summer is when they generally give birth. The gestation period for bats is between 40 days and 6 months, depending on species - the larger the species, the longer the gestation period. The male bat does not help raise the pup.
Raising a Pup
One pup is born per female, per season - although sometimes twin occur. (The largest litter on record was four pups!) Baby bats are born furless, with their eyes closed. However, from day one, they are equipped with strong legs to grasp onto their mother's fur while she is roosting. Surprisingly, these “tiny” pups weigh about 25% of what their mother weighs when they are born. This would be equivalent to a woman giving birth to a 30 pound baby!
When the female leaves the roost to feed at night, she will leave her pup clinging on the wall. In many species, pups will congregate together while their mothers are gone, for warmth and protection. When the females return, they will locate their pup by its unique call and unique smell. The baby bat feeds off its mother’s milk, as all mammals do.
Within 3-5 weeks, the pup can begin to fly and start eating “solid food.” (However, in Vampire bats, the pup will remain dependent on its mother for about four or five months.) The mother bats will take their pups out to teach them how to catch food and fly. Depending upon the species, the young bat may stay with his or her colony for life. In other species, though, they may group up with others of their same age group and fly away to make their own colonies.
Where can I get a bathouse to attract wild bats to my yard?
For more about bathouses, such as how to order one or how to make one, go here: www.batconservation.org
Does a bat make a good pet?
Although they are cute and intelligent, having a bat is not the same as having a hamster. Bats are not only illegal to have as pets in many countries, including the United States, but they require vast amounts of space to fly. (For people in the US to keep bats, they need a special exotic animal care license.) Bats are wild animals, like raccoons or wolves. They are beautiful but they belong in their natural habitats, not in a cage in your house. If you ever encounter what seems to be a sick or injured bat, do not attempt to cure it yourself. Please call the local Animal Care and Control Center or Wildlife Rescue.
Do ALL bats have rabies?
Absolutely not. Less than 0.5% of bats have rabies. You have better chances of getting rabies a dog than a bat. For more information on bats and rabies, please go here.
Do bats really fly into people's hair?
No, if a bat ever swoops over your head, she or he is not trying to get in your hair. Most likely, by walking, you have stirred up some insects - such as moths - out of the grass. The bat is just coming to get the insects. Since bats have such keen senses of eye sight and smell, as well as echolocation, they would not "accidentally" crash into your hair, either.