Bats are as fascinating as they are elusive. These flying mammals are masters of stealth, and they’re rarely detected because of their preference for nocturnal activities. But, as quick and as adept at flying as bats are, they have to sleep somewhere. So, where is it that bats go to ‘hang out’, as it were, when they’re not out foraging or hunting?
In this article, we’re exploring the question of where bats live, and we’re looking at the variations among bats when it comes to their habitats, roosting preferences, and colonizing behavior. As it turns out, bats are highly complex animals that have evolved to be very social, and the places they call home might surprise you.
Come along as we definitively answer the question, “Where do bats live?”
Photo Credit: Daniel Spiess on Flickr
Where Do Bats Roost?
A bat’s home is called it’s ‘roost’ (not a nest), and it’s the place where bats establish their colony. Most colonies are initiated by female bats who need a place to birth and raise their young (baby bats are called ‘pups’). Many roosts are located in areas that are intentionally out of sight from potential predators—animals like weasels, foxes, and owls.
And, because bats prefer to sleep during the daytime, their roosts often need to be dark and isolated in order to maintain privacy. Not many locales fit this bill, which is why most bats choose to roost in places like caves, abandoned buildings, and defunct mineshafts.
When it comes to choosing a home, some bat species are more intrepid than others. While almost all bats in North America live in caves, etc. there are other really interesting bat species throughout the world that call other places ‘home’. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular bat species!
Where Do Fruit Bats Live?
Fruit Bats, also called Old World Fruit Bats, buck the bat roost trend of sticking to caves and concealed, dark areas. Instead, fruit bats are most commonly known to inhabit trees. They can even be found sleeping in broad daylight, using the elevation of high tree branches to their advantage, so they can stay out of harm’s way on the forest floor below.
These bats live primarily in southeast Asia and Australia, and they are frugivores, so you don’t have to worry about them sneaking into your home at night and sucking your blood.
[Fun Fact: Contrary to popular belief, no bats actually ‘suck’ blood from their prey. Instead, the Vampire Bat makes a small cut in the skin of its host and then quietly laps up the blood on the ground before flying off undetected. Sneaky!]
Where Are Vampire Bats Found?
Speaking of Vampire Bats, where might they be found? We can, of course, rule out a towering castle in Transylvania.
Vampire Bats are known to live in tropical areas like Mexico, Central America, and South America. They prefer roosting in dark, out-of-the-way places like old wells, caverns, and caves. Wherever it is that these blood-thirsty bats choose to live, they can’t just ‘hang around’ there for too long—Vampire Bats cannot go longer than two days, max, between blood feedings.
Where Do Flying Fox Bats Live?
Did you know that ‘Flying Fox’ is actually a misnomer, as these bats are not foxes at all. They simply resemble foxes in the way that their face and torso are shaped.
Flying Fox Bats are a kind of Megabat, and they are native to Madagascar, Australia, and parts of Indonesia. These bats choose roosts that are similar to those of the Fruit Bat mentioned above, as they are partial to the high branches of trees and upper forest canopies.
Where Do Hammerhead Bats Live?
In the tropical forests of central Africa, it’s possible that you might come upon a Hammerhead Bat, or Hypsignathus monstrosus. This peculiar-looking bat prefers to live in riverine forests, swamps, and mangroves that contain enough fruit to fuel its voracious frugivore appetite.
[Fun Fact: The male Hammerhead Bat has an enlarged rostrum (or nose bridge) that it uses to make loud honking sounds. This is done both as a way to attract a mate as well as a source of echolocation for navigation.]
Where Do Bumblebee Bats Live?
Bumblebee Bats are the smallest of all bats, weighing in at a scant 2 grams, fully grown. These super-small bats live in western Thailand and southeastern Burma, and they choose to roost in more traditional bat homes—caves, rocky outcroppings, and abandoned buildings.
The sad truth about Bumblebee Bats is that they are very endangered. As of the creation of this article, only about 43 caves are known to contain these rare creatures.
Where Do Megabats Live?
Megabats are very common throughout all of southern Asia, Myanmar, parts of the Middle East, and in southern Africa. These bats don’t have to worry as much about predators as smaller bats, because some Megabats can have wingspans that exceed five feet in length. That’s huge!
Because they’re less prone to predation, Megabats don’t have to confine themselves to places like caves and derelict mine shafts. In fact, most Megabat species are quite content to roost in plain sight, high in the trees of a forest—a forest rife with fruit for eating!
Bats of all shapes and sizes can be found throughout the globe, on just about every continent except the arctics. While most bat species keep to a strictly nocturnal lifestyle that consists of hunting and foraging under the cover of night, they like their peace and quiet in roosts that are far removed from humans or predators.
Caves, caverns, and dark, rocky recesses are common places for bats to live; however, a few bat species are quite comfortable napping in trees and forest canopies.
Wherever a bat chooses to make its home, one thing is for sure: bats are here to stay, and their roosts deserve respect and protection. If you’re interested in learning more about these intriguing animals, feel free to explore the other bat-related resources on this page.