Bats are known for their zig-zagged, often erratic-looking flight paths. They can sometimes seem a little ADD as they dart here and there, constantly shifting their focus from one meal to the next (many bats are insectivores, eating flying insects right out of the air). But, because bats are often sighted in the evening or dusk hours, it’s not always easy to get a good read on them.
The nocturnal behavior bats exhibit can prompt some to wonder: “Do bats fly during the day?”. In this article, we’ll be answering this question head-on, and we’ll be exploring the many reasons by bats take flight at all. And, we’ll be answering some related questions in our ‘Bat Flight FAQ’ located towards the end.
Photo Credit: Diego Lizcano on Flickr
Why Do Bats Prefer the Night?
Before we tackle the subject of daytime bat flight, let’s make sure we address the reasons why most bats choose to take to the skies when it’s dark outside. The main reasons why bats prefer to be active at night are:
Food availability. During daylight hours, insectivorous birds by the thousands are flying everywhere, doing all they can to hunt many of the same insects that bats would prey upon. These birds are competition for bats, which is—according to at least one scientist—a chief reason why bats stay in their roosts during the day.
Protection from predators. Even as nimble and elusive as bats are, they do have quite a few natural predators that hunt them. These predators include weasels, skunks, foxes, and snakes, just to name a few. Being outside during daylight hours would subject bats to much more of a threat from these animals. That being said, there are nocturnal animals who prey upon bats—owls represent a large number of them.
Remember, too, that human beings are an established threat to bats. In fact, in some parts of the world, there are orchestrated efforts aimed at culling entire bat populations. Being active at night helps keep the bat out of sight of humans.
The meals are tastier. This somewhat related to the first point listed above. Many flying insects are more active at night, a fact that bats take full advantage of. One of the most favorite meals for bats are moths, and if we know anything about moths, we know they fly around a lot in the evening and nighttime hours.
[Fun Fact: You may know that bats use echolocation to navigate and hunt their prey. But, did you also know that some moths have developed a ‘radar jamming’ capability that helps to protect them from bats? Amazing!]
Lastly, bats prefer to fly at night because they’ve adapted to this nocturnal lifestyle over the past 50 million years or so. Through trial and error, bats have learned that they’re more successful in hunting, breeding, and avoiding predators by keeping their activities relegated to hours of the day that don’t see much sun, if any.
A Definitive Answer
Now that we know why bats prefer the night, let’s answer our initial question: “Do bats fly during the day?”.
The answer is yes. Some bats do fly during the day, quite regularly in fact!
In order to better explain why some bats choose to fly during the day, we need look no further than the Blyth’s Horseshoe Bat, a bat that is native to parts of India and the Malay Peninsula. This bat has been observed out hunting in broad daylight, swooping through the skies looking for delicious forest insects to dine upon.
But why? Why does this bat in particular seem so impervious to the daytime threats we mentioned above? Well, in one word, the answer is ecosystem.
You see, the Blyth’s Horseshoe Bat that hunts during the day is doing so on a remote island that doesn’t have the same amount of competition or predators that bats face is other parts of the world. And, on this island, the insect population can often be 100 times more dense in the daytime hours—an ecological feature that means ‘all day buffet’ for these bats.
So, yes, some bats do fly during the day. However, this is more of an exception than a rule, and the vast majority of bats are quite content to keep their hunting and foraging activities restrained to hours of the day that are dimly lit or completely dark altogether. This doesn’t mean that if you see a bat in the daytime that something must be wrong with it. It could simply be getting an extra meal or two in before heading back to it’s cave.
Here is a look at a colony of bats in Australia that goes for daylight flights!
The Bat Flight FAQ
Because you’ve got more questions about bat flight, we’re bringing you the answers.
Are bats afraid of light?
To suggest that bats are afraid of light wouldn’t necessarily be accurate. There is a common misconception that bats are blind or nearly blind, a characteristic that would make them ambivalent to light at all. The truth is that bats actually see fairly well, and they can even use their sight to aid them in hunting.
It’s not that bats fear light per se. Rather, because bats have adapted to a mostly nocturnal lifestyle, the presence of daylight indicates to them that it’s time to be sleeping, resting, or communing with others in their colony.
Are bats blind during the day?
The Blyth’s Horseshoe Bat mentioned above is, like all other bats, definitely not blind, and it hunts in the day quite well. However, because the echolocation feature of bat navigation doesn’t rely on light at all, more light doesn’t necessarily mean easier hunting or more efficient flying. Granting this, it’s safe to say that even though the sun may be out, this doesn’t mean that bats somehow suddenly become blind.
What time of day to bats come out?
Bats are most active when their food is most active and when the more dangerous predators like foxes and weasels are slumbering. What this means for most bat species is late dusk to early morning hours.
Where do bats go during the day?
When the hunt is over and the bat has been satisfactorily fueled by a mix of moths, mosquitoes, and dragonflies, it’s most likely going to return to it’s roost. This roost could be a cave, a rocky outcropping, an abandoned mineshaft, or a defunct building built by humans. Bat roosts are often populated by entire bat colonies, and some bat colonies can live in the same roost for many years.
Respecting Bats for Peaceful Coexistence
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to bats, the danger they pose to humans, and how exactly these fascinating animals live out their lives. However, when we take the time to learn from these delicate, impressive creatures, we end up being better for it (and so does the bat!).
Hopefully, this article has shed some light (no pun intended) on some bat facts you didn’t know beforehand. If you’re eager to learn more, feel free to check out the other bat-related information contained on this page.