Facts About Bats: Mammals

Facts about bats, including what they eat, where they sleep, how they live and how they help people!

There are more than 1,000 species of bats in the world! They live on every continent of the world, except Antarctica. Bats do not live in areas where it is very hot or very cold, and there are some remote islands that are not home to bats.

The largest bats live in warm areas, while smaller bats live in both warm and cold places. Where winters are cold, bats migrate to a warmer climate or hibernate. When bats hibernate, they gather in large groups of hundreds and sleep together for warmth.

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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.

Mother bats have one baby in their litter. The baby bats are called "pups." When a pup is born, it usually has no hair and its eyes are closed. It clings to the mother bat and drinks milk from her. When the pup is about four months old, it learns to fly.

Although some people say all bats look like flying mice, their heads sometimes look like tiny dogs, bears or foxes!

Depending on the species, bats can be gray, brown, white or reddish brown.

Bats are very sociable animals, and live in large colonies. Depending on the type of bat, their life span is between four and thirty years.

Bats like to live in dark places. Caves, holes in trees and even buildings are favorite homes. Because bats sleep during the day and are active at night, they are called "nocturnal."

Bats sleep upside down. They use their feet to grasp onto a twig or board, and when it is cold, they hang close together.



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Bats have teeth and chew their food. Seventy percent of all bats eat insects. One bat can eat more than a thousand insects in one hour!

To catch insects, bats use their wings. Their wings are the only part of their bodies not covered by hair, but with thin, tough skin. Bats use their wings like hands, and they have little thumbs and wrists on them.

Because bats eat so many insects, they are a great help to people. Many poisonous chemicals can be avoided when bats eat the bugs that would ruin crops, and cause other problems.

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Some bats eat fruit, nectar and seeds from plants. When the bats spit out the seeds or leave them in their droppings, they help new plants to grow. They also pollinate many kinds of plants, including vanilla beans, peaches, bananas and avocados.

Other bats eat mice, frogs and fish. They use what is called "echolocation" to find their food. Because they hunt at night when it is dark, they cannot see their prey. So, they make clicking and squeaking sounds and listen for the echo to come back to them. If the sound comes back quickly, they know something to eat is nearby. If they hear no sound, they know nothing to eat is close. Most bats have big ears and very good hearing.

A few species of bats eat the blood from the backs of cattle and the feet of chickens. These "vampire bats" slit the animals' skin with their sharp toenails, and then lap up the blood. The bloodsucking bats of the movies are not real.

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The largest bats have a wingspan of more than six feet. However, most are smaller.

The "hog-nosed bat" has a body that is only one-inch long. The length of each wing is about three inches.

"Fruity bats" like to eat fruit.

"Camping bats" are tiny and white. They chew palm fibers and make little "tents." Each night they make a new tent.

The "American fishing bat" uses echolocation to feed on fish.

Other kinds of bats include "acrobatic bats," "brown bats," "long-eared bats," "pygmy bats" and "vampire bats." There are many more.

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Many people do not like bats and are afraid of them because they think all bats have rabies. Rabies is a virus that is transmitted to animals and people through animal bites. A study by the University of Florida has shown less than one-half of 1 percent of all bats have rabies. It is more likely for a person to be bitten by an unvaccinated dog or cat.

People also think vampire bats will try to attack humans. That is simply not true.

Bats are not a danger to people and are actually quite valuable. Very few carry rabies, and they help to control the insect population. They also help seed new plants and pollinate our crops!

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