|Florida Nature: Bats|
Florida’s 13 native bat species are gluttonous consumers of night-flying insects, including the ever-present, ever-biting mosquitoes. They can eat up to half of their body weight in insects in one night. Bats are mammals. They account for more than 25 percent of all the mammals on the earth! Bats are the only mammals that can fly.
The wings of bats are supported by the bones of the arms, as well as bones of the hands and fingers. Some bats have long, narrow wings, while others have shorter, but broader, wings. Wing membranes are very thin, but are living tissue. Wing membranes usually extend down along the bats’ sides and are connected to their hind legs and at least part of the tail. Bats' feet are small and not very good for crawling, but they are uniquely adapted for grasping structures in a way that allows the bats to hang upside down.Most small mammals have short life spans. But bats, for their size, have the longest life spans of any mammal. Some bats can live for more than 30 years.
Big Brown Bat -The big brown bat is larger in size than comparative species of bats, from about 4 to 5 inches in body length, with a 11-13 inch wingspan and weighing 1/2 to 5/8 ounces. The fur is moderately long, and shiny brown. The wing membranes, ears, feet, and face are dark brown to blackish in color. The big brown bat is found in a wide range of habitats of the northern two-thirds of Florida. They occupy farmlands, cities, parks and forests. Typical roosts are bridges, tree hollows, attics, barns or other manmade structures, as these bats are very adaptable. They also use night roosts. Big brown bats are insectivorous, eating many kinds of night-flying insects including mosquitoes, moths, beetles, and wasps which they capture in flight. After a big brown bat has filled its stomach, it roosts in garages, breezeways, porches or other structures while it digests its food. This species usually takes the same foraging routes night after night. Foraging starts anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour after sunset, Big brown bats, like other bats, do not forage in the rain or cold temperatures.
Eastern Pipistrelle- The Eastern Pipistrelle, Florida's smallest bat, is a dainty yellowish to light-brown colored bat found throughout most of the state. Its individual hairs are tri-colored, giving the appearance of rings when the fur is blown on. Even though considered to be solitary in nature, Eastern Pipistrelles form small maternity colonies, usually no greater than 20 individuals. Summer colony roost sites include hollow trees, the underside of tree bark, manmade structures, the underside of shingles and Spanish moss. Colonies are often in the open and are exposed to more light than other bat species are exposed to. Eastern Pipistrelle's often use caves as winter roosts. They are one of the first to come out at night and are slow flyers with a somewhat erratic flight pattern. Because of their small size, Eastern Pipistrelles are sometimes mistaken for moths. Adults weigh between 4 to 10 grams (or less than a half an ounce) and reach a forearm length of 1 to 1 1/2 inches. They are easily distinguished from other similar species by their tri-colored fur. Pipistrelles are nicknamed butterfly bats for their distinctive moth-like flight pattern.
Eastern Red Bat- One of the most common solitary roosting bats in northern Florida is the Eastern Red Bat found in the northern two-thirds of Florida. As the name indicates, these bats are a bright orange-red. Unlike most bats, red bats are sexually dimorphic in color; males are more brightly colored than the females, which are a dirtier, sandy red color. Eastern Red Bats prefer to roost in the dense foliage of deciduous trees, with a preference for American elms, as their coloration allows them to blend in, often hanging by one foot and looking like a leaf. They are swift flyers and are often seen foraging around streetlights. Their breeding season is in fall, and females give birth in early summer. Litter size ranges from one to five pups, with an average of three. Young are born blind and well furred on their backs. Pups learn to fly in approximately one month and are weaned one to two weeks later.
Evening Bat- Evening bats are found in temperate deciduous woodlands or mixed woodlands and open areas. Roosting preferences are tree hollows, especially in cypress trees, but they have adapted also to using manmade structures. The evening bat is one of the smaller bats. They usually weigh less than half an ounce and their tiny bodies fit easily in the palm of a hand. With a wingspan of about eight inches, evening bats appear to be much larger when they're flying. They have brown fur complemented by black ears, snouts and wings Evening bats also have an uropatagium that stretches between their legs. They sometimes use this wide tail to catch insects.
Gray Bat- The gray bat is an endangered species. Gray bats are distinguished from other bats by the one colored fur on their back. In addition, following their molt in July or August, gray bats have dark gray fur which often bleaches to a chestnut brown or russet. They weigh 7-16 grams. The bat's wing membrane connects to its ankle instead of at the toe, where it is connected in other species of Myotis. With rare exceptions, gray bats live in caves year-round. During the winter gray bats hibernate in deep, vertical caves. In the summer, they roost in caves which are scattered along rivers. These caves are in limestone areas of the southeastern United States. Gray Bats do not use houses or barns.
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