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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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Lead Ranger


'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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