Bats (Chiroptera) are mammals that have evolved to fly. There are 16 resident species of bat in Britain, making up a third of our land mammal species. They feed on flying insects especially flies, midges, mosquitoes and gnats; and they avoid predators by hunting just after dusk and sometimes before dawn.
Bats are warm blooded, so prefer warm conditions, and they hibernate when it is cold. Bats are not harmful to humans in any way, so don't worry if a bat flutters past you. Even if they roost in the loft space of your house they will do no harm, and lots of good in protecting your roof from woodworm!
But many people are totally unaware of bats in their locality. This is partly because bats in the UK are small, dark in color, active at dusk and dawn, so they are hard to see; and they make very little sound that we can hear, so dont attract our attention. Also because they feed in areas where their prey is available - which excludes large urban areas.
Although their sight is quite good, bats use sonar to help them navigate around obstacles and locate their prey in the dark. The bat makes a loud noise, at a pitch above our hearing range. The reflected sound is interpreted by the bat to form a very accurate "snapshot" of its surroundings. As the bat approaches an obstacle, or its prey, it calls faster and faster. We can transform the sound from the bat to a lower pitch with a bat detector, so that we can hear it.
Find out more about bat detectors in my next guide "bat detectors"
flying bats and bat detectors
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19 November 2011
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