Bats are Cats with Wings.
If you don’t agree with my declaration this video* should convince you:
(Yep. That face reminds me of Ramses.)
*James is not a pet and is in this person’s care until he can be released back into the wild.
April 17th is International Bat Appreciation Day. I love bats. One of the things I actually enjoyed “up north” was seeing the bats come out at dusk and gobble up all the nasty mosquitos. (Yum yum.) Fun fact: A single Brown bat can eat 1,200 mosquitos in one hour.
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera. With their forelimbs adapted as wings, they are the only mammals capable of true and sustained flight.
Bats comprise about 20% of all classified mammal species worldwide, with over 1,400 species.
Many bats are insectivores, and most of the rest are frugivores (fruit-eaters) or nectarivores (nectar-eaters). A few species feed on animals other than insects; for example, the vampire bats feed on blood. (Vampire bats don’t “suck” blood. They create a small incision with their teeth and lap up blood from the wound.)
Bats are present throughout the world, with the exception of extremely cold regions. They are important in their ecosystems for pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds; many tropical plants depend entirely on bats for these services.
We’ve all heard of DC Comics’ Batman – and to a lesser extent, Bat Girl – but did you know the Mayans worshipped a bat god? Camazotz means “death bat” and is associated with night, death, and sacrifice.
Of the 1,400+ species of bats in the world, 43 live right here in the United States:
- The Florida bonneted bat is endemic to Southern Florida. Being that the species has one of the smallest geographical distributions of any New World Bat it’s earned the title of being “one of the most critically endanged mammals in North America” and is protected under the Endangered Species Act.
- Wagner’s bonneted bat
- Western mastiff bat
- Underwood’s bonneted bat
- Velvety free-tailed bat
- Pocketed free-tailed bat
- Big free-tailed bat
- The State bat of Texas and Oklahoma: Mexican free-tailed bat
Though abundant and widespread, some local populations have prompted protection and conservation efforts. The bat is considered a species of special concern in California as a result of declining populations. Bat Conservation International bought Bracken Cave (Texas) from private ownership in 1992. BCI planned to revert any land changes that were a result of farming or ranching in order to conserve the biodiversity and wildlife there. Preserving the land around Bracken Cave was important, as it is home to the world’s largest bat colony, and any human encroachment would be detrimental to their population. BCI also protects the land from artificial light pollution, which can distress the bats. [source]
I remember watching a documentary on bats which talked about a large colony (over 15 million) living in a cave in Texas and I’m guessing it was Bracken Cave. Anyway they used doppler radar to show their emergence from the cave at dusk and the path they took during the night looking for food. It was HUGE! One can only imagine the number of insects they hungrily devoured.
- Ghost-faced bat
- Mexican fruit bat
- One of three nectar-eating bats in the U.S., the Mexican long-tongued bat feeds on nectar, pollen, and fruits of flowering desert species like agave and cacti. The species has been classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN due to ongoing habitat loss, which includes loss of roosting sites in caves to mining and tourism. It is regarded as a species of Special Concern in California and Arizona.
- The migratory Mexican long-nosed bat is the main pollinator of several nocturnal blooming cactus species.
- Pallid bat
- Rafinesque’s big-eared bat
- One of the subspecies of the Townsend’s big-eared bat is the State bat of Virginia. Townsend’s is a “whisper bat” which means means that it echolocates at much lower intensities than other bats and may be difficult to record using a bat detector.
- Big brown bat
- Spotted bat
- Allen’s big-eared bat
- Silver-haired bat
- Western red bat
- Eastern red bat
- Hoary bat (see below)
- Southern Yellow bat
- Seminole bat
- Southwestern myotis
- Southeastern myotis
- California myotis
- Western small-footed bat
- Long-eared myotis
- The Gray bat is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN and the Endangered Species Act, which requires that 90% of the most important hibernacula be protected and that populations at 75% of the most important maternity colonies be stable or increasing over a period of 5 years for the gray bat to be down-listed from endangered to threatened status.
- Keen’s myotis
- The Eastern small-footed bat is listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
- Little brown bat As of 2018, the little brown bat is evaluated as an Endangered species by the IUCN.
- Arizona myotis
- The Northern long-eared bat is considered federally Threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act.
- The Indiana bat was listed as federally Endangered under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, on 11 March 1967, due to the dramatic decline of populations throughout their range. Reasons for the bat’s decline include disturbance of colonies by human beings, pesticide use, and loss of summer habitat resulting from the clearing of forest cover. As of 1973, the Indiana bat has been listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act (as amended), and additionally protected by the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988, to protect hibernacula on federal lands. In 2013, Bat Conservation International listed this species as one of the 35 species of its worldwide priority list of conservation.
- Fringed myotis
- Cave myotis
- Long-legged myotis
- Yuma myotis
- Evening bat
- Western pipistrelle
- As of 2018, the Tricolored bat is listed as a Vulnerable species by the IUCN.
We’ve all seen pictures of vampire bats, brown or gray bats, and Flying Foxes but when I was researching this Post I discovered there are many really unique and fascinating bats!
Found from southern Mexico to Bolivia and southern Brazil.
The current conservation status of the Fringed-lipped bat is Least Concern because its populations are currently stable. Because it is stable there are no conservation action plans. But because of its feeding habits, it is placed in a precarious position that puts it at a risk from human activity.
Lives in West and Central Africa.
As of 2016, it is evaluated as a Least Concern species by the IUCN — its lowest conservation priority. It meets the criteria for this classification because it has a wide geographic range; its population is presumably large; and it is not thought to be experiencing rapid population decline. It is not a common bat species in captivity, though it is kept at the Wrocław Zoo in Poland as of 2020, and was kept at the Bronx Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the 1970s and 1980s. In captivity, it is vulnerable to stress-related illness, particularly males. [source]
Endemic to North America, South America, Galápagos Islands, and Hawaii.
The coat of the Hoary bat is dense and dark brown, with white tips to the hairs that give the species its ‘hoary’ appearance for which it is named. While not listed as threatened or endangered, hoary bats suffer significant mortality from wind turbines. Across the United States in 2005, 40% of all bats killed by wind turbines were Hoary bats — over 1000 Hoary bats were killed in 2005. [source]
Hoary bat numbers are plummeting in the Pacific Northwest, according to a recent study, raising concerns about the ability of the species to survive throughout the United States as growing numbers are found dead at wind power facilities. [source]
Northern Ghost Bat
Found in South America, Central America, and Trinidad.
This is a relatively rare and completely white insectivorous bat, which is considered a Least Concern species by the IUCN.
The Ghost bat lives in northern Australia.
Listed as a Vulnerable species by the IUCN, it’s estimated that several thousand Ghost bats remain in existence today. [Adelaide Zoo]
Endemic to Central America, the Wrinkle-faced bat is considered a Least Concern species by the IUCN.
Also known as Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, it’s found in western Thailand and southeast Myanmar and is the smallest mammal in the world. (How can you NOT love a bat whose body is about the size of a large bumblebee!)
Its relatively wide, long-tipped wings enable the bat to hover like a hummingbird. It has been hunted and harassed by collectors and tourists wanting to see the world’s smallest mammal, but the main threats are from burning of the forested areas near the limestone caves in which it lives.
As of the species’ most recent review in 2019, Kitti’s hog-nosed bat is listed by the IUCN as Near Threatened, with a downward population trend. In 2007, the Bumblebee bat was identified by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered Project as one of its Top 10 “focal species”. [source]