Have you ever seen birds flying at night? Well, I’m sure you have. You know, when it is twilight, or good moonlight, occasionally, you’ll see a bird in flight at night. Well, guess what, it’s probably a bat.
…Now think back to one of those instances…Was that bird flying straight and steady, or was that “bird” flying erratically? …something like how a butterfly would fly if it was a bird?…Yup, you guessed it…That was most likely a bat. At night, most birds are asleep in their nests and the trees.
No need to panic! They are not coming for you to suck your blood, contrary to popular belief. They use echolocation to find objects in their path. They use higher frequency sounds and thus shorter wavelengths to locate their food. Most Canadian bats use ultrasonic echolocation calls, meaning humans cannot hear these frequencies because they are too high. Sometimes, bats will swoop down, but it for certain is not because they are trying to get you, they are using sound waves to locate those bugs around you that they want to catch.
* Neat Fact: There is 1 notable exception to the Canadian bat ultrasonic rule…The spotted bat of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, uses frequencies that are low enough for a human to actually hear.
A person can see how important sound is to their lives just by looking at how large their ears are in comparison to their little bodies.
* Note: Bats are not blind, also contrary to popular belief. They use their eyes just like we do. However, they employ echolocation, as well, at night to help them locate their prey
For the most part, bats come out in the evening and night to feed. They rest, upside down, during the day, awaiting nightfall so they can feed on insects. Since they are already upside down, in order to fly, they just let go and…Voila! Flight.
They don’t glide/soar, as do birds like eagles or falcons, and they don’t fly like robins or sparrows where they go in a straight line and flutter their wings periodically. They constantly need to work and flap their wings, all the while sending out sonar to find little insects, that also fly spastically…That’s why their flight pattern is so odd, and is so distinguishable.
Guess how I learned about this…Okay, you won’t…
My Story: Back in 1994-1995, I lived in Australia. One of the softball teams I played on was a local softball team in Perth, Western Australia (the Kalamunda Knights). We often practiced in the evening, as it was extremely hot during the day, and many of the girls worked.
One of the first nights we practiced, when I arrived in Aussieland, I asked some of the girls on the team what kind of birds were flying around the treetops. We practiced right next to a forested area. We had the typical sports field lights at the softball diamond, and you could catch glimpses of flitting “birds”, so I thought…They immediately informed me that they were bats. Of course, this intrigued me, and I watched them often.
Once you know what to look for, you see them all the time. I was pleasantly surprised, when I came back to Canada that next summer, to see our own homeland Canadian bats come out at night! I just love filling people in on this little secret. I love to see their eyes light up when they realize that they have actually seen a bat! I love opening up their mind, and changing their schema about bats.
* Neat Fact: One little bat can eat from 50 to over 100% of their body weight of insects each summer night. They certainly help keep the mosquito population down! Thank you…Bats!
In Canada, there have been 19 different species of bat recorded, 17 of which are regular residents of Canada.
Scientific Classification of Bats: Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Infraclass: Eutheria Superorder: Laurasiatheria Order: Chiroptera
There are 2 Suborders: Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera.
There are so many species of bat, that they are separated into Superfamilies, too numerous to list here.
* That’s right…Bats are mammals, like you and me! They aren’t birds. They are warm-blooded, give birth to live young (no, they do not lay eggs), and suckle their young. What really sets them apart from other mammals is their wings…they can fly! Their fingers, hands and arm bones are attached together by a thin fold of skin that forms their wings…Their wing membranes attach to their bodies and hind legs, and in Canadian species, their tail is enclosed as well…Wow, amazing!
Size: The little brown bat of Canada is of an average size, weighing 8 g in summertime (a mass of 2 nickels and 1 dime) with a wingspan of 22 cm. The largest Canadian bat species, the hoary bat, weighs a “whopping” 30 g, with wingspan of 40 cm. The smallest of all Canadian species are the eastern and western small-footed bats, weighing only 5 g.
Lifespan: These little mammals have relatively long lifespans, many living over 30 yrs of age. In fact, a banded little banded brown bat in Ontario was recorded to survive 35 yrs.
Winter: What in world do these little creatures do when it gets so cold in Canada? Good question!
When it becomes fall, it gets colder and insects disappear. So, Canadian species of bat rely on migration and/or hibernation. Some find roosts in buildings. Some go underground into mines or caves where the temperature is more stable, above freezing, and has a high humidity. Still some go further south, some with short migrations, and some with longer journeys. Many hibernate in leaf litter, or in hollows of trees. There are a few species that actually remain active.
Rabies: As all other mammals, bats are susceptible to getting rabies. Rabies is a disease that will progressively cause paralysis and death. It is found in the saliva of animals, which means if an animal, or human for that matter, is bitten by a rabid animal, that disease is transmitted through the saliva. The incidence of this disease in Canadian bats is low…So no need to panic!
* Tip: “Anyone who has been bitten by a bat or other mammal should
contact a physician and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada personnel, who can arrange to have the animal that delivered the bite tested for rabies.” Therefore, try to humanely capture the animal, so that it can be tested. If they are not infected, you will save yourself a hassle and an unneeded inoculation.
Conservation Issues: While many opportunistic animals such as raccoons, skunks, snakes, cats, owls, raptors, and martens, will take the “opportunity” to prey on bats, none actually specialize in predating upon bats. So, for the most part, humans disturbing them during hibernation are the major cause for bats declining in numbers, or being at risk.
Disturbances: 1. When a nursery colony is disturbed, many of the young do not survive because they are abandoned. 2. When bats are hibernating, and disturbed, they expend much of the energy they would otherwise need to last the winter hibernation. Therefore, when they run out of that energy and winter is still here, they perish. Just one disturbance could bintang4dp expend 60 days of energy that they rely upon to survive the winter!
Therefore, we need to protect their roosts from people!
COSEWIC: The Committee of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, has listed some Canadian species of bat under the Species at Risk Act, “a species of special concern is one that may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats”