Bats in Ireland – Part 1

Bats in Ireland

Bats in Ireland are Everywhere

The most widespread species of bat can be found in most surveyed 10 km grid squares across Ireland. It is occasionally absent from coastal areas in the west. Other bat species are generally widespread, but more localised. Many species favour warmer temperatures; normally found in southern regions.

Bats are protected by law in the Republic of Ireland under the Wildlife Act 1976 and subsequent amendments. In Northern Ireland, bats are protected under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

For all bats it is an offence to disturb, injure or kill bats or disturb or destroy their roosts.

What is a bat?

Bats are mammals. Therefore, they have fur covered bodies, they are warm blooded and give birth to live young. Mothers feed their newborn babies milk. Bats are the only mammals that can undertake true powered flight. A bat’s wing is similar to a human hand except the thumb is small and claw-like, while the remaining digits (fingers) are long. There is skin stretched between them. There is a large area of wing membrane between the bat’s fifth finger and its body/leg.

Bat Wing Structure

Wing Structure

Bats in northern Europe, including Ireland, are entirely insectivorous, i.e. they eat only insects. In Europe, where 45 bat species have been recorded, there is just one species that eats fruit – the Egyptian fruit bat. Its European distribution is mainly in Cyprus and parts of Turkey.

Common Pipistrelle & Soprano Pipistrelle

Vespertilionid Bats

Most Common Bats in Ireland 

 

The two smallest bats in Ireland, and also the commonest, are the Common and Soprano pipistrelles. They are easy to see flying around soon after dusk in both urban and rural areas.

Both have a rapid, twisting flight as they pursue tiny prey of midges, mosquitoes and small moths. A single pipistrelle (weighing no more than 5-6 g, the weight of a 1 euro piece) may consume as many as 3,000 of these insects in one night.

Bat comparison

Fully Grown Bats

 

Lifecycle

Bats in Ireland typically become active in late spring and early summer. As the days and nights warm up a bat flies out to forage for insects for progressively longer periods at night. Also around early summer a number of female bats get together in a suitable nursery (maternity roost or colony). A nursery roost is usually warm, undisturbed and situated close to suitable insect-providing habitat. Numbers of bats in a nursery roost may build gradually until the time that the mothers give birth, around late June or early July. They each give birth to a single baby that they can identify by its smell and sound. By 6-7 weeks after birth the young are independent.

In Ireland, bats are the only mammals apart from hedgehogs that undergo true hibernation. Hibernation takes place from October/November onwards.

Bat Roosts

Many Irish bats roost in trees from time to time. For many people, their first contact with bats is finding their rather mouse-like droppings in the attic, or less often, finding a lost bat circling the living room or clinging to the curtains. Bats rely heavily on buildings for roosting and to a large extent, their conservation depends on tolerance and goodwill from their human hosts.

Read part 2 of this article

  • Species of Bat in Ireland
  • Creating Roosts – Bat Boxes
  • Protection & The Law
    • Building work and renovations
  • Get Involved

 

Take a look to our past articles or discover what our site What’s on in Kerry has to offer while you are here.

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