Bats are nocturnal flying mammals found living all over the world. While they have a bad reputation for being creepy or scary, most bats are not dangerous. Learn more about what makes bats special with these fun facts.
Types of Bats
Organizations like the Bat Conservation Trust keep track of bat populations around the world and provide information on different species to help people better understand these unique animals. Each type of bat has special physical characteristics suited to their surroundings.
- Bats are the second largest group of mammals in the world after rodents.
- There are more than 1,000 different species of bats.
- Flying foxes are the largest species of bat and have a wingspan as big as a bald eagle.
- The tube-lipped nectar bat's tongue is almost twice the length of its body.
- A little brown bat can live for up to 40 years.
- Scientists currently disagree about what to call the two distinct types of bats. They used to be call Megabats and Microbats.
Where Bats Live
Bats can live in almost any geographic location, or habitat, around the world. As long as they can keep warm and find food, bats survive even the most dangerous conditions.
- The Arctic and Antarctic are among the only places in the world with no bats.
- About one-third of all bats live in Central or South America.
- Tent-making bats build tents out of leaves to live in.
- The areas with the most diverse populations of bat species are tropical regions.
- Bats like to roost in small, dark spaces away from danger and predators.
What Bats Eat
- Nearly three-fourths of all bats eat mostly insects.
- Little brown bats can eat up to 1,000 small bugs per hour.
- Frugivores are bats that eat fruit, seeds and flower pollen.
- Some bat species are carnivorous and eat fish or frogs.
- In one night feeding, Mexican free-tail bats can eat up to 200 tons of insects as a group.
Bat reproduction and family life are as unique as these odd mammals. The reproductive organs of bats allow them to mate and then wait to give birth until the environment is safest.
- Bats generally only have one baby per year.
- Mother bats work together in maternity colonies to take care of baby bats.
- A baby bat is called a pup.
- Within two to three months after birth, a pup is ready to fly outside the roost.
- Many bats live in colonies which can consist of millions of individual bats.
- The average life span of a bat is 10-14 years.
The way bats look, live, move and eat are directly related to their unique features. Bats are the only mammals who fly, however, they look very different from other flying creatures like birds and insects.
- Bats don't walk well because their tiny legs stick out sideways so their knees are nearly backward.
- Bats have long fingers, unlike many other flying creatures such as birds.
- The heaviest part of a bat is its chest because that's where the muscles used for flight are housed.
- A bat's head shape varies based on the type of food it eats.
- Although they look smooth, the membranes of a bat's wings are covered in tiny hairs.
- When bats communicate with each other they use sounds people can hear. However, when they use sounds for echolocation to "see," they use sounds people can't hear.
Take an up-close look at real bats with this educational video.
Myths About Bats
Because of the way they look and their preference for nighttime, there are many misunderstandings about bats. However, much of what you see and hear in pop culture is not true.
- While many people view bats as dangerous and mysterious, Chinese culture has celebrated bats as a symbol of good luck for centuries.
- Vampire bats don't drink human blood or live in Transylvania. They feed on the blood of other animals and typically live in South America.
- Bats are not blind, some species have small eyes while others have large eyes, but they are all able to make out their environment well in conditions people can't.
- Not all bats are black or brown, some are gray, white, red, orange and yellow.
- Bats don't all live in caves, some live under bridges, inside leaves or in trees.
If you're more intrigued than scared by bats thanks to these fun facts, keep on learning with more bat activities.
- In episode 136, A Bat in the Brownies, of the animated series Wild Kratts, Chris and Martin show their friend Jimmy how bats aren't as scary as he thinks. Look for episodes on PBS Kids.
- Janell Cannon wrote the story Stellaluna in picture book format about a little fruit bat who is left to live with a nest of birds by accident. Readers will learn about embracing differences as they explore how bats and birds are different in this fictional book. In 2004, the book was made into an animated movie.
- Bats!, by National Geographic, is a nonfiction book full of bat facts and pictures. This level two reader can be read by kids independently or with an adult.
- Incredible Bats website features fun games and activities like X-Ray a Bat where you can scroll over a bat's body to see what its bone structure looks like or you can take the Bat Quiz and complete the Batty Word Search to test your skills.
- Find printable work sheets and DIY books about bats in KidZone's bat section.
- Get crafty and make your own bat costume or paper origami bat decorations.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Explore the fascinating world of one of the world's most misunderstood mammals, the bat, with fun facts and activities. Learn about where bats live, what they eat, and how they help the world then look for ways to help care for these awesome creatures.