All 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.
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.
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 find 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 are commercially available which 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 baby 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 fly and forage for itself and find a cooler site to roost in order to conserve energy by slowing down its metabolism. In winter bats need cool sites with high humidity. Winter sites include caves, tunnels and old mine workings.
- There are 18 species of bat in Britain, 17 of which are known to be breeding. However, many of them 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.
- Twelve species of bats have so far been recorded in Nottinghamshire. The two most commonly found roosting in buildings are the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and the soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus).
North East Wildlife Trusts - Urban wildlife! Bats in a Gateshead back garden
These common pipistrelle bats were discovered living under a wooden facia board near Gateshead. In the first shot you can see a bat emerging from underneath the facia as it sets off to forage for insects (pipistrelle bats can eat 3000 midges every night). The next part of the film shows the bats flying around in the back garden catching midges. Bats aren’t blind, they can see with their eyes…
All species of bat in the UK are legally protected from any persecution and disturbance.
Different species of bat can be found in different types of habitat, some prefer woods, whilst others prefer to be close to water bodies such as rivers and lakes.
Where to see
Bats are most easily seen at dusk and at night in spring and summer, flying in search of insects. While bats hibernate during the winter months they may occasionally be seen when they leave their place of hibernation to hunt. Bats roost in all kinds of buildings, in caves, in hollow trees and sometimes behind tree bark where it has started to peel away. They can be seen emerging from these roosts in the evening returning later. Individual roosts are not usually occupied throughout the year, as bat colonies frequently move, although they usually return to a particular site at the same time each year. Bats prefer clean, draught-free buildings, disliking dust and cobwebs.