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Bat facts

Bat facts

Bats are known to be the world’s only flying mammal.
  • Fossil evidence of mammals similar to bats dates back to over 50 million years ago.
  • Bats are the only mammals that can truly fly. Approximately 20% of all mammals in the world are bats.
  • Bats fly with their hands. The ‘family’ name Chiroptera, means ‘hand wing’. They are a mouse-like animal with forelimbs modified to form wings.
  • s there are few insects to be found in winter, bats in Britain hibernate, slowing their down their heartbeat and breathing and reducing their body temperature to save energy.
  • The smallest bat in the UK is the Common Pipistrelle Bat (wingspan 18-25cm). This tiny bat can eat approximately 3,000 insects in one night. Our largest is the Noctule Bat (wingspan 33-45cm). In comparison the largest bat in the world comes from Java and achieves a wingspan of 1.4 m (nearly 5ft) and a body length of 42cm (16.7in).
  • Bats can hover, fly backwards and turn in a tight space extremely quickly.
  • One bat in this country has been known to live up to 42 years. Smaller bats usually live about 10-15 years.
Echolocation
  • All bats can see – so the saying ‘blind as a bat’ is incorrect. They have developed the use of echo-location to find food when navigating and hunting for food at night. Bats make high-frequency sounds, and the echoes of these sounds bounce back which enables a bat to work out the size of objects, their location, how fast they are travelling and even texture. Some bats can locate their prey up to 20/30 metres away. Certain moth species have even learned to copy the sound of bats to escape being eaten, or can sense the bat’s echo-location call and perform evasive manoeuvres in response so they are not caught.
  • It is a myth that a bat can fly into your hair. Bats’ echo-location is far too good for that!
Species
  • There are thought to be over 1,100 species of bats in the world. Bats are native to all continents except the Arctic.
  • Approximately 13 species have been recorded in the New Forest area – three of them are particularly rare; Greater Horseshoe Bat, Bechstein’s and Barbastelle.
Food
  • Only three of the world’s 1,100 bat species actually feed on blood (and they are only found in Central and South America).
  • All UK species of bats eat insects (but elsewhere in the world bats can be found which eat fruit, flowers, even fish and frogs).
  • Some UK bats will fly up to 30 kilometres to feed.
Young
  • A baby bat is called a ‘pup’.
  • Bats usually produce one offspring a year. This means bat populations cannot re-build their numbers quickly and are sensitive to harmful impacts.
  • Pups can fly four to five weeks after they are born.
Home
  • The collective name for a group of bats is a ‘colony’.
  • Their places of rest are known as ‘roosts’ and are protected by law. Bats will use a number of roost sites according to the time of year.
  • Common roosts for bats are caves, trees, and buildings (such as eaves, roofs or cellars).
The future
  • 99% of bats worldwide have been lost in the last 100 years, due to loss of food, habitat and human activity.
  • Bats and their roosts are now protected by law in this country and heavy fines can be incurred if their habitat is destroyed or disturbed.
  • Natural England should be contacted for advice if work is likely to affect bats or their roosts.

Gillie
Molland
Lead Ranger

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'To help ground nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs and ridden horses on the main tracks from the beginning of March to the end of July.'

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