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Common Bet-Wing Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii)

Diputación de Málaga

Common Bet-Wing Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii)

Identification

It is a medium-sized bat (head-body length 4.8 to 6.2 cm), with a flat snout and a high prominent forehead. Its face is similar to the Pekinese dog. It has short, triangular ears, with a short tragus (small prominent lobe inside the ear). It has a short tail (4.7 to 6.4 cm) which does not protrude from the uropatagium (wing membrane joining tail and legs). It has narrow, pointed and very long wings (length of the forearm 4.4 to 4.8 cm). It has a grey fur with a lighter belly. Females are bigger than males. It emits echolocation sounds from 54 to 56 kHz frequencies.

Where does it live?

It is a strictly cavernous species living in chasms and natural caves. To a lesser extent, it can also be observed in mines, tunnels, bridges and abandoned buildings. Hunting areas are influenced by food availability. It prefers open areas or wetlands with high availability of insects, although it also uses river valleys, crops, meadows, pasture-lands and forests. For breeding refuges, it uses natural caves and hollows, preferably limestones, with a stable climate and which are not above 1,000 m above sea level. Its shelters and hunting areas can be quite far from each other. It is a migrant animal. Shelters for hibernation are exclusively cave dwellings and are usually 70 to 120 km away from the breeding ones (sometimes more than 350 km).

How does it live?

It is a nocturnal animal feeding on moths, flies and mosquitoes or lacewings. It performs seasonal trips from breeding to wintering shelters. Its flight is agile and fast (up to 55 km/h) and resembles the swifts, which also resembles its wings’ shape. It uses river courses as highways when travelling to hunting areas. They are colonial animals which can live in groups of more than 20,000 individuals. The colonies are usually familiar. The females are very philopatric (they tend to stay close to the colonies where they were born). Males are not philopatric and they disperse looking for new territories.

How does it reproduce?

Bet-wing bats mating occurs in autumn-winter and births at the end of the following spring. The females retard gestation, which usually lasts about 8-9 months. They give birth to a single offspring which flies 40-60 days after birth and is sexually mature at the age of one year old in the case of males and two years old in the case of females. Their life expectancy is about 10 to 25 years.

Where can we see it in Málaga?

It is a scarce and a not very common species in the province. There are colonies in the Sierra de la Utrera de Casares, Ronda mountain ranges and Sierra de las Nieves, Sierra Tejeda, El Chorro, Torcal and Camarolos mountains, Sierra de la Camorra, Cortes mountains, among others. In the Great Path, we can find it on stages 17, 20, 21, 23, 24 and 28.

Curious facts

Bet-wing bat colonies often leave marks in the caves where they live. These marks are very characteristic and regular, they have even sometimes been confused with cave paintings and look like the spots on the leopard's skin.  Bet-wing bats are nocturnal substitutes for swifts. They hunt aerial plankton at a height of 10 to 20 meters from the ground. For its agile and fast flight it is also called the "bat-hawk" or the "bat-swift".

Similar species

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 observe them when they cling. The shape of the tragus, the snout or the size of the ears are the key factor to distinguish them. The bet-wing bats have a very flat snout, like the Pekinese dog's one.

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Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation