Bats are mysterious creatures. They are one of the most misunderstood and feared animals of the world.
But they are also important to our ecosystem, as they play important roles for the cycle of life.
Fortunately, through education of true bat facts, the myths and lore, which have struck fear in the hearts of humans is being combated.
Instead we are now turning to conserve, heal and wonder at such a living being!
Just like birds, and we humans, bats belong to the animal family.
But unlike birds, we humans, and bats are mammals. Being a mammal means; being warm blooded, having bodies that are all or mostly covered in hair or fur, mammals give birth to live babies and feed their babies with milk secreted by mammary glands.
Birds and Bats eat the same things, like insects (lots of insects), nectar, fruit, invertebrates, small animals and fish.
We humans, come to think of it, eat almost all the food items on that list too, at least as a species.
Scientists have discovered that bird babies learn vocalization very well. When they want to study this in terms of similarities to us, bird brains are organized differently. But bats, on the other hand being mammals like us, are better subjects for this type of research.
Unlike we humans, birds and bats have wings. But, they have different types of wings from one another.
We are all familiar with bird wings which have feathers.
But did you know that a bird’s wing under the feathers, is made of an arm with one “finger”?
The illustration here of a bird wing shows the single finger called the metacarpus.
Compare that to the drawing below of a bat wing.
You may find it very interesting to view this drawing lesson from Sketchbook.com on how to draw a bird wing.
There are illustrations of a bird wing compared to a human arm. It is very revealing. Take a look for yourself here and scroll down the page.
In contrast Bats have four “fingers” with skin stretched over them and they are much longer than a bird’s single finger.
That is just one of the numerous facts that make Bats extra special (But not all of the facts make them better than birds, just equally as intriguing and beneficial). ;-)
Bats need a location to roost in the summer and a safe place to hibernate in the winter called a hibernaculum, such as an attic, bat cave, under the bark of trees, mines, bridges, tunnels, hollow logs, dead trees (snags), tree holes, cracks in rocks or a man-made bat shack.
Bats will use any dark opening for their home and return to it faithfully for years.
That is why if you have bats near where you live, (hopefully you do), then erecting a bat shelter or two would be a good idea.
Most bats are crevice dwellers and roost together for convenience and to keep warm.
But some species prefer solitary roosting locations, if there are sufficient spots available.
Climate will often be the deciding factor as to where a bat will roost.
All bats roost up-side-down.
The Big Brown Bat and the Little Brown Bat are the two species of bats in North America, most likely to use a man-made bat house, bat box or bat shack.
Bats make good neighbours!
A small bat shelter can house about 100 bats and a multi-chamber bat house as many as 300.
They will use a man-made bat house or also called bat box, bat shack or bat shelter.
So much of their natural places of shelter such as trees and caves have been destroyed over time.
If you can provide a shelter for bats to roost in, it will increase the chances of their survival.
The more people who provide bat houses, the more bats will grace the earth.
Insects – about 70% of bats in the world are insectivores.
Fruit - some bats eat the fruit that is in season and are called frugivores.
Frugivores also eat pollen and drink nectar, as some backyard bird watchers can attest to. Bats that drink nectar have been seen during the night at Hummingbird feeders. Learn more about What is Drinking My Hummingbird Nectar at Night?
Small Vertebrates - Yes, we are vertebrates, but far too big for a bat to manage. Bats eat small vertebrates like fish, frogs, toads, salamanders and the like.
Blood - the small number of bats that do drink blood, do so by cutting the skin with their sharp teeth and lapping up the blood (nothing like the horror films). These bats search for small animals, frogs, fish etc.
To find food some bats rely heavily on the use of echolocation while others use sight and smell more.
But because bats are very loyal to a particular location they learn where the best sources of food are found and return regularly to the source of food.
Bat feeding and other behaviour takes place during the night time hours as they are nocturnal animals.
Some bats will hibernate when their food supply is diminished because of temperature changes. Bats have the ability to lower their body temperature to match the air temperature, which reduces their need for energy. Then when they want to fly again they shiver to raise their body temperature.
Others will migrate to follow their food source or to find a more suitable hibernation spot.
Male bats fertilize the eggs inside the female internally like other mammals.
Most female bats give birth to one live pup, but a few species have multiple births.
Mother bats nurse their young with milk until the baby is able to forage for food on its own.
Mother bats consume the most insects while they are nursing their pups in June, July and August in North America.
Most baby bats live in a colony with many other bats, sometimes hundreds or even tens of thousands, where they learn many things from their community about being a bat.
1. There are 4,000 species of mammals, of which 1,000 are various members of the bat family, that’s just too many to allow misconception to prevail. (That is ¼ of the mammal species on the earth!) The usgs.gov website states “the loss of the one million bats in the Northeast has probably resulted in between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects no longer being eaten each year by bats.” If we extrapolate that loss around the world…
2. Bats play a significant part in seed distribution and pollination. For example fruit bats spit out and defecate the seeds in a new location, helping to relocate the plants.
3. Bat guano (dung or poop) is the excrement of bats (and seabirds produce guano too). It is very high in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. Every gardener knows that these are vital components to healthy abundant plant growth. Bat manure is an expensive, highly sought after fertilizer. Some sources say it is the best fertilizer found on the earth.
4. Bats have a benefit that if they could understand it, would be totally turned off. They are prey for many other animals.
5. Gardeningknowhow.com says that bat guano boosts a compost pile by speeding up the decomposition process.
6. Bats aid in the control of undesirable insects, like mosquitoes and pests that eat crops. Each bat can consume enormous amounts of insects compared to their body weight.
7. Bats play an important role in the ecosystem as pollinators. Some plants depend entirely on bats to perform their fertilization needs for them or they will become extinct.
8. Seed dispersal is a task fruit eating bats aid with as they excrete the seeds of the fruit they eat.
9. You may not have considered this one before, tourism. Rob Ripma (one of our photo contest judges from early in 2018), said in an article for BirdsandBlooms.com, that Bats in Austin, Texas have been estimated to have created a 10 million dollar business for that city. There are many countries, where bats live in large numbers and create quite an interest that people travel to see them. Watching these animals exit their roosting shelter in the the twilight evening sky, in such huge numbers, is truly a wonder to behold.
10. Bats also support cave ecosystems, by being prey for other cave dwellers and supplying droppings for many organisms to live in, to name two.
11. Bats are the only mammal that can fly.
12. Lastly, as the National Park Service reminds us, bats inspire scientific discoveries and inspiration, as hopefully reading this page is doing for you.
These creatures habituate the night which may further exaggerate the mystery that surrounds them.
Owls sometimes share this ominous reputation because, they by and large, are night flyers like bats.
There have been many fictional stories told of gruesome bat behaviour and the power of their bite.
But the truth of this lore, at worst, is that they could be compared to large mosquitoes.
They look the part of an evil villain, but it is only the adaptations of survival that have resulted in their unique look.
They live in caves and other equally dark places and they make eerily spooky sounds.
All of these characteristics cause consternation and fear among most people, resulting in the often-usual response to things unfamiliar; destruction.
So let us debunk the ignorance and enjoy the truth about these incredible awesome night flyers and stick to "Bat Facts".