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What are Bats?

Bats are unique mammals that are capable of true flight. Their Latin name Chiroptera translates to 'Hand Wing', which explains how their wings are actually their hands/digits covered in a membrane.

There are over 1000 species of bats which make up 20% of all mammal species. These species are split into the two suborders Megachiroptera (old world fruit bats) and Microchiroptera (echolocating bats).


There are roughly 18 families of bats, varying greatly in size and morphology. Their diets also range from insectivorous (insects), frugivorous (fruit), carnivorous (meat), nectarivore (nectar), piscivorous (fish), hematophagy (blood).

Bats are found in all continents except for the poles. Their distribution is more concentrated around the equator.

UK Bats

  • Noctule (Nyctalus noctula)

  • Serotine (Eptesicus serotinus)

  • Grey long-eared (Plecotus austriacus)

  • Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

  • Soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)

  • Brown long-eared (Plecotus auritus)

  • Whiskered (Myotis mystacinus)

  • Mouse-eared (Myotis myotis)

  • Daubenton's (Myotis daubentonii)

  • Lesser horseshoe (Rhinolophus hipposideros)

  • Greater horseshoe (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)

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Top 10 UK Bat Facts:

  1. 18 bat species, 17 of which breed in the UK

  2. Bats are largely insectivores and feed on the wing

  3. Bats are (mostly) nocturnal (first seen just after sunset)

  4. They can fly of speeds up to 60 mph

  5. Bats can consume their body weight in food every night 

  6. Their life expectancy can be up to 30 years

  7. Bats use echolocation to find their prey

  8. They give birth to live young (pups)

  9. Bats roost in different places depending on species (trees/old buildings/caves/rooves)

  10. They are threatened by habitat destruction 

For more information on UK bats, visit the Bat Conservation Trust website.

North American Bats

The United States and Canada are home for 47 species of bat, including species such as the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), Californian leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus californicus) and the northern yellow bat (Lasiurus intermedius).

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Five species of bat in North America are experiencing sharp population declines due to a disease called white-nose syndrome. This disease caused by a species of fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) and makes some species of hibernating bat wake up too early and use too much energy, which ultimately causes them to die from starvation. Sometimes appearance of the disease can cause bats to have white 'fuzz' on their faces, which is how the disease got its name.

White-nose syndrome has decimated some species of bat, including the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), whereas some species in North America, such as the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), do not appear to be as effected by the disease. Read more about the effects of this disease on our Publications page.


For more information on bats of North America, visit the Bat Conservation International website.

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