With Halloween almost upon us, we thought it was time to shed some more light on one of the most mysterious creatures of the night – bats. Reclusive and often misunderstood, these shy little critters have acquired themselves a ferocious reputation over the centuries. Thanks to tales like Dracula and a plethora of vampire movies portraying them as bloodthirsty hunters, these cute little furballs have gained a somewhat undeserved name for themselves. So let’s take a look at what really makes these mammals tick.
Throughout the world, there are over 1,100 different species of bats! Of these, 18 species are found right here in the UK. They range greatly in size. The largest bats are called flying foxes, or fruit bats, and these are found mainly throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. They can weigh as much as a kilogram and have a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres! At the other end of the spectrum, the smallest bats are called bumblebee bats, and these weigh a mere 2 grams.
Bats are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are active at night. Night time is their time to hunt, and their diet includes things like insects, fruit, nectar, other bats, fish and frogs, to name a few!
The vampire bat (responsible for giving all bats a bad name!) does feed solely on the blood of small mammals and birds. There are 3 species of vampire bat and all are native to the Americas.
While several mammals have adapted the ability to glide, the bat is the only mammal in the world that is capable of continuous flight.
Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind, but as they do the majority of their hunting at night in total darkness, they have developed a very unique method of navigating their way around. They use a technique called echolocation. Bats emit a very high-pitched clicking sound, which cannot be heard by the human ear, into the environment around them. This noise bounces off objects immediately surrounding them, such as cave walls, trees, rocks, buildings, etc. As the noise bounces off these objects, it deflects back towards the bats and they use their huge ears to capture and interpret these ‘echoes’ and decipher how far away and how big an object is. This method enables them to ‘see’ in literal darkness.
Sadly, bat numbers over the last century have dwindled significantly. This is largely due to the decline of their natural habitat due to development, and also the construction of things like roads and highways which cut them off from their foraging areas.
If you would like to learn more about these fascinating creatures, you can do so by visiting the Bat Conservation Trust. If you encounter a bat that is injured or in distress, please call the Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228.
Posted October 27, 2015