Have you ever sat on the back of your boat, late on a Summer’s evening, with the final glow of the sun over the horizon, and seen the silhouette of what looks like small birds flitting around the trees or darting across the water. Well if you have, then my friends you probably have seen the merry dance of the creatures of the night – bats.
What is a Bat?
Bats are mammals, with their bodies covered in fur, and wings that look a bit like light leather. Unlike a bird, a bat’s wing is similar to a human hand with four long fingers stretching out from the wrist.
How many types of bat are there in Ireland?
There are nine species of bats in Ireland, and all are small ranging in wingspan from 190mm (7.5 inches) to 320mm (12 inches), weighing between 4 and 20 grams.
- Common Pipistrelles https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/common-and-soprano-pipistrelle
- Soprano Pipistrelles https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/common-and-soprano-pipistrelle
- Nathusius’s Pipistrelle https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/nathusius-pipistrelle
- Long-eared Brown https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/brown-long-eared-bat
- Daubenton’s https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/daubentons-bat
- Natterer’s https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/natterers-bat
- Lesser Horsehoe https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/lesser-horseshoe-bat
- Whiskered https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/whiskered-bat
- Leisler’s https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/leislers-bat
How can you tell the difference between species when they are flying around?
It is very difficult to tell them apart visually, especially when it is dusk or dark. If you are in a harbour, or on river section and sitting out of an evening, shine a torch across the surface of the water. It is common to see Daubenton’s Bats flying just above the surface – hence their nickname the “Water Bat”. Outside of this, the best way to identify a bat is through using a “bat detector”. These are electronic receivers that turn the bat’s echolocation sound into audible clicks. Each species emits their echolocation at a different frequency.
How are bats doing in Ireland?
In general, populations of bats throughout Europe are in decline. However in Ireland, the populations appear to be steady. The biggest threat to bats is water pollution, loss of hederows, and pesticides which kill off the insect life they feed on. Bats are protected under the Wildlife Act 1976, and it is an offence to intentionally disturb, injure, kill a bat, or destroy their roosts.
Where do bats live (roost)?
Surprisingly, bats preferred location is in buildings, though many other natural places like caves, trees and crevices provide their homes. In paricular, Daubanton’s Bat has a preference for crevices in the stone work in bridges.
What do bats eat?
- Caddis flies
- and multiple varieties of other insects
Some fun facts about bats!
- The smallest bat is called the “Bumblebee Bat” or “Hog-nosed Bat”, and it is one of the smallest mammals in the world. It’s roughly the same size as a bumblebee (hence the name) and weighs about 2 grams. They are found in Thailand and Myanmar
- The biggest bat is the “Giant Golden Fruit Bat” or “Flying Fox” (it’s head looks a bit like a fox). These have a wingspan of about 1.7 meters and weigh in at 1.2 kilo’s. These guys can be found in The Philippines.
- THERE ARE NO VAMPIRE BATS IN IRELAND! Vampire Bats are only found in South and Central America.
- Bats in Ireland can eat up to their own body weight in insects each night. This may equate to about 3,000 small insects! So while we complain about clouds of midges, to a bat it is their dinner!
- There are about 1,000 species of bats worldwide.
- Irish bats have a lifespan of about 7/8 years.
- Lough Key Forest Park, has a colony of bats that roost in one of the tunnels that was used to service Rockingham House. If you take a tour of the tunnels you will see the roost clearly marked and cordoned off,
For further information on Bats, visit Bat Conservation Ireland at https://www.batconservationireland.org/