Grey Long Eared Bat (Plecotus austriacus)
It is a medium sized bat (total head-body length 4,1 to 5.8 cm). It has very large ears (up to 4 cm), near to each other on its wide base and with a comparatively small tragus (small prominent lobe inside the ear). They usually fold the ears when at rest, hiding them under the wings, exposing the tragus looking like smaller ears. It has a short tail (3,7 to 5,5 cm) not protruding from the uropatagium (wing membrane joining tail and legs). The wings are short (length of the forearm 3,1 to 4,1 cm). The size of the wings is similar to the ears. That is why they are also known as the "four wing bats". The coat is grey on the back and whitish on the belly. The face, wings and ears are dark brown. It emits echolocation sounds from 25 to 85 kHz frequencies.
Where does it live?
This species usually uses very diverse habitats, from damaged forest lands, scrub areas, crops, open areas to urban environments. It is one of the most attracted by the light of street lamps. The proximity to plains and river or stream banks is associated with a greater abundance of this species. It is an anthropophilic species regarding refuge use. It prefers human constructions (closed buildings, churches, tunnels and bridges). It also uses caves, tree nest boxes and holes. It is a crack species (it uses cracks and fissures). The winter hibernation shelters are usually in thermophilic and warm zones, away from the coastal strip, usually mines and underground cavities.
How does it live?
It is a nocturnal animal. It is a specialist in the capture of large nocturnal lepidoptera, although he also hunts flies, mosquitoes and flying beetles. It usually creates prey cemeteries because when it hunts a moth it takes it to its cavity to eat it, piling up the remains under the innkeeper. They are solitary animals except during the mating period. Offspring colonies are small of up to about 30 specimens. They also hibernate alone. They do not travel a lot, they are rather sedentary. The breeding and wintering shelters are usually close but at different altitudes.
How does it reproduce?
Grey long-eared bats go into heat in September. Births occur the following year in summer. The offspring colonies is formed by a few females, also separated from males. Each of them gives birth to a single offspring that flies a month after birth and will be sexually mature after the first year of life (males) and two or three years (females). Their life expectancy is about 5 to 9 years.
Where can we see it in Málaga?
It is a very scarce species in the province. It has been mentioned in the Cortes mountains, the Ronda mountains range, Sierra de las Nieves and the Mijas mountains range. On the Great Path, it can be detected on stages 23, 24 and 33.
Bats are great pest controllers, the best anti-mosquitoes possible in summer. They consume daily one third of their weight in nocturnal flying insects. A bat population can catch and eat a ton of insects during the breeding season. How many electrical devices, which are used in summer to sleep peacefully, would it take to match this brand? How much electricity would those devices consume? Bats do this for free.
As they fly and at a glance all bat species are similar. They can only be distinguished by the ultrasound frequency they emit. It is very rare to be able to handle them to observe them. The shape of the tragus, the snout or the size of the ears are the key factor to distinguish them. In the grey long-eared bat, the size of the ears is the feature that distinguishes it from other bats.