31 Spooky Bat Facts for Kids (and Adults)
People tend to think bats are creepy or spooky, but if you’ve ever taken the time to look at one up close, they are actually quite cute! Plus, the more you learn about these nocturnal creatures, you’ll realize just how interesting they are and how useful they are within our ecosystem.
So, are bats actually blind? Is the vampire bat real? Here are 31 fascinating facts about bats you never knew.
Bats Are the Only Flying Mammal
You may have never thought about it, but bats are not avian. They are mammals. They give birth to live young, rather than hatching from eggs.
This makes them the only mammal that flies. (And, no, the flying squirrel does not count, the membrane on their legs allows them to glide, but not actually fly).
There Are 1,300 Species of Bats
You read that right, there are more than 1,300 species of bats worldwide. You can find bats almost anywhere.
The species vary greatly in size but have a lot of common features between them.
The Scientific Name for Bats Means ‘Hand Wing’
Makes sense, doesn’t it? The word Chiroptera is Greek for “hand wing,” which aptly describes the bat’s appendages.
They include four fingers and one thumb, connected together by a thin membrane that allows them to fly.
Some Bats Are Insectivores
Many bat species are insectivores, eating a diet of insects they catch mid-flight.
The Little Brown Bat is an insectivore, as is the Pipstrelle, a tiny bat species that can eat 3,000 insects in one night, even though it weighs under 6 grams.
Some Bats Are Herbivores
About one-third of all bat species eat fruit or nectar.
One type of fruit bat is the Flying Fox that lives in Africa, Australia, Asia and the Middle East. They like bananas, avocados, mangos and dates.
And Some Bats Eat Larger Prey
Then, there are the bats that are big enough to eat fish, frogs, birds or mice; however, only 1 percent of bats eat larger prey like this.
For instance, the Large Slit-Faced Bat is one type that eats mice.
The Vampire Bat Is Real
Yes, there really are vampire bats that feed off the blood of other animals, usually cows and horses. There are only three species of vampire bats, though, including the Common Vampire Bat, White-Winged Vampire Bat and Hairy-Legged Vampire Bat.
All of them live in Mexico, Central America and South America. They only drink blood for both food and water, consuming nothing else to survive.
But There are Also False Vampire Bats
These bats were given the name “vampire” by early scientists, at the time, they couldn’t distinguish between the bat species that drank blood and the one that did not.
False Vampire Bats are a variety of species in Asia, Africa, Australia, Mexico, and Central and South America.
Bats Come in a Range of Sizes
With so many species, it’s no surprise that bats come in a wide range of sizes. Bats can weigh less than a penny and as heavy as 3 pounds.
Their wingspans range as well, from under 6 inches to 6 feet.
The Largest Bat Breed Is the Golden-Crowned Flying Fox
The Golden-Crowned Flying Fox is a large, megabat that is only found in the Philippines.
This fruit-eating bat has a wingspan of up to 6 feet and weighs 2.6 pounds. It primarily eats figs, spreading the seeds as it does, which helps in reforestation.
The Smallest Bat Breed Is the Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat
This adorable bat is also sometimes called the Bumblee Bat. It weighs less than a penny and is only about 1-inch long.
They are the world’s smallest mammal and are insectivores, located in western Thailand and southeast Burma.
Some Bats Use Echolocation to Find Food
Due to their poor eyesight, many bats use echolocation to find their prey.
They make a high-pitched sound that humans cannot hear. It travels over the air, and when it hits an object, say an insect, the sound bounces back to the bat that can then locate that object.
Bats Typically Only Have One Baby a Year
Bats only have one baby a year. The babies cling to their mother’s backs during flight until they are old enough to fly by themselves.
If a baby should fall, the mother will swoop down to catch it. Having only one offspring a year makes them more susceptible to extinction.
Bats Can Live Up to 30 Years
Like birds, bats have long lives.
Most species of bats can live up to 30 years, though some may only live for around five.
Over 500 Plants Rely on Bats for Pollination
All those fruit-loving bats are an important part of the ecosystem. Over 500 plants, including some human favorites like bananas, vanilla, guavas, avocados and mangos, rely on bats for pollination.
In addition, bats help with reforestation by spreading the seeds from the fruits they have eaten.
Bats Can Fly at Over 60 Miles per Hour
If you’ve ever had a bat swoop over you, you know that they can fly very fast. In fact, most species fly at around 60 miles per hour, with some being able to fly even faster.
A study conducted by University of Tennessee researchers found the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat could reach speeds of 100 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest mammals on Earth.
One-Way Valves Allows Bats to Hang Upside Down
Ever wondered how a bat can hang upside down for hours a day without all the blood draining to his head?
It’s because they have a one-way valve in their bloodstream that keeps the blood from doing so.
Bats Knees Are Backwards
Another thing that allows bats to hang upside down for so long is their backward knees.
When a bat hangs upside down and relaxes, their knees and legs are designed for their back talons to lock in place, holding the bat without using any energy.
Bats Are Not Blind
Some bats have better eyesight than others, but it’s a common misconception that bats are blind. They are, however, sensitive to light and try to stay away from it.
Being nocturnal, they hunt for food at night.
A Group of Bats Is Called a Colony
Bats like to live in dark places, such as caves or crevices. Sometimes, they are found in barns and even abandoned houses.
A group of bats is called a colony. They can be small, with just 15 to 30 bats, or they can be huge, with thousands of bats to a colony.
Some Bats Are Classified as Microbats
Microbats are the bats that use echolocation to find their prey, usually insects.
These bat species have large ears and small eyes.
Others Are Classified as Megabats
Megabats, on the other hand, do not use echolocation! They have smaller ears and larger eyes. They also have a stronger sense of smell, which they use to locate fruit.
Although the name implies it, they are not necessarily larger than microbats.
Males Bats Sing
Although humans cannot hear it, male bats sing at a high frequency to attract females during mating season.
Do the females judge a male by how good his voice is? Maybe!
A Baby Bat is Called a Pup
And just like a dog pup, they are born with their eyes closed. Unlike a dog pup, they are also born naked.
Bats are one-fourth of their adult size at birth.
The Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat Has the Longest Tongue of Any Mammal
To say bats are a unique species is putting it mildly. Not only does the species include the smallest mammal and also one of the fastest, but the Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat has the longest tongue on any mammal, which it uses to get nectar from fruits.
Their tongue is 1.5 times the length of their body. Hailing from South America, the tongue sits in the bat’s ribcage when not in use!
Many Bat Species Are Considered Threatened
There are over 200 bat species on Earth that are either critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
This is usually due to disease, loss of habitat and loss of food source.
Some Bats Hibernate
Some species of bats hibernate through winter, hanging upside down and even being frozen in ice.
Other bats species migrate to warmer temperatures during the winter months.
Pallid Bats Eat Scorpions
Studies have found that the Pallid Bat in Arizona is not affected by the venom of scorpions. In fact, they eat them.
Up to 70 percent of their diet can consist of the Arizona Bark Scorpion.
The Bracken Bat Cave in Texas Is the World’s Largest Bat Colony
While some colonies of bats may be large with a few thousand bats, the Bracken Bat Cave is the world’s largest colony with over 15 million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats on the 1,500-acre preserve.
Located outside San Antonio, the Bracken Bat Cave allows visitors during the summer nights.
Bat Poop Is One of the Richest Fertilizers
Called guano, bat poop is an extremely rich fertilizer and is even called the “best” fertilizer for your plants and garden. You can actually buy bat guano for your garden.
It’s a natural fungicide and also works as a compost activator!
Four States in the U.S. Have Official State Bats
While you may have heard of the state bird, chances are you didn’t know that four states also have official state bats!
Virginia has the Virginia Big-Eared Bat, Hawaii has the Hawaiian Hoary Bat, and Texas and Oklahoma both have the Mexican Free-Tailed bat.