Bat facts

Common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) in flight over silver birch branch

Many species of bat have made their homes in the buildings and landscapes we care for. Here are ten things you may not know about these unique creatures.

  • Bats are not blind but do use echo location to navigate around at night
  • They are highly unlikely to get caught in your hair as their echo location is so sophisticated it can detect a gossamer spider web
  • Their knees bend the opposite way to ours to help them climb on ceilings
  • We don’t have vampire bats in the UK and only 3 out of 1200 bat species in the world are vampires.
  • Bats are the only mammals that can fly.
A common male pipistrelle bat
A common male pipistrelle bat
A common male pipistrelle bat
  • The pipistrelle is the UK’s smallest bat, it measures only about 4cm long and weighs around 5 grams - that's less than a £1 coin!  There are two widespread species of ‘pip’ in the UK – the common pipistrelle and the soprano pipistrelle.  They were identified as separate species only in the 1990s and are best distinguished by their echolocation calls – they ‘broadcast’ on different frequencies.   A third species of pip, the slightly larger Nathusius’ pipistrelle, has become established since the 1990s.   
  • The world's largest bat, the Kalong (also known as the Javanese flying fox) lives in south east Asia and feeds on fruit. With a wing span of almost 2 metres, it's the biggest bat in the world! Smallest is the Bumblebee bat from Thailand, the world’s smallest mammal
A Greater Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) hibernates in a cave
Greater Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) hibernating in cave
A Greater Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) hibernates in a cave
  • All bats have very big appetites because flying uses up lots of energy. The tiny pipistrelle can eat over 3000 insects in a night!
  • In winter, when there are fewer insects around for them to feed on, bats go into a deep sleep called hibernation to save energy.
  • Have you ever wondered why bats don't fall down when they are asleep? The tendons in their legs and feet are designed so that the weight of the bat causes the toes and claws to grip the foothold in the roost firmly, even when they are asleep.

Bat spotting places