by, Jo Carol Hebert
It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
No. It’s Bat-Mammal, flying across the night skies outside of San Antonio, Texas. Our bat hero and 20,000,000 other Mexican free-tailed bats are returning from a night of eating 250 tons of insects. They roost hanging upside down in this largest bat colony in the world.
Bats Under Bridges
Down the road in Austin, Texas, another 1.5 million bats are coming off the night shift to roost under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin, Texas.
They flew out at sunset, amid the cheers of hundreds of Austinites and tourists who come regularly to see this miraculous cloud of bats exiting from under the crevices of the bridge. These same bats used to be a major nuisance for the city and extermination was the proposed answer.
Bat Conservation International
A conservation group called Bat Conservation International has turned the bat situation into a time of celebration. Conserving the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet is their mission. Austin is now proud of their Mexican free-tailed colony being the largest urban bat colony in North America.
Other Bats Need Love, Too!
Did You Know?
- Megabats are large fruit-eating bats
- Microbats are smaller and eat insects
- 70% of all bats eat insects
- There are 1,000 species of bats
- Bats live on every continent except Antarctica
- Bats are not blind
- The bat is the second most populous mammal, after rats
What Are Bats Good For?
It happens that bats are good for a lot of reasons:
- Bats control the insect population. A colony of brown bats can eat 18,000,000 root worms each summer. This save crops for people to eat.
- Bats pollinate plants.The giant Saguaro cactus in the Southwest U.S. are pollinated by bats. Large, flying fox and fruit bats spread the seeds of the fruits they eat scatter up to 95% of the seeds needed for new trees and bushes in tropical rainforests.
- Bat poop, called guano, produces a good bacteria that is used in commercial products.
What Do We Know About Bats?
Bats come in all sizes. The tiny baby Bumblebee Bat is only the size of a jellybean!
The huge Bismarck Flying Fox Bat has a wingspan of over five feet.
Bats live in forests, deserts, jungles, and cities.
Bats smell, hear, taste, feel and see quite well.
Bats are warm-blooded mammals and the female nurses her baby pups.
Bats live 20 years.
Bats have fur.
Bats have HUGE ears and flaps and folds on their nose called ‘nose leaves’.
A Mammal That Flies?
Bats are the only true-flying mammal that can fly continuously. So-called ‘flying squirrels’ can only glide for a short distance. The bat wing is a miracle of design. It has two thin layers of skin stretched over the bat’s arms and fingers, like a ‘web.’ There are four long fingers and a thumb.
When bats fly, they move their wings in a way that propels or pulls them forward through the air. They also use their wing fingers to wrap around insects to hold them while they eat.
What is Echolocation?
A remarkable sense that allows bats to see in the dark. They make noises and wait for the sound waves to bounce back off objects like an echo. It the sound doesn’t bounce back it is safe to push on and fly.
This sense tells them how far away things are. The bat can use this sense through squeaky mouth sounds that are ultrasound, so high- pitched that humans can’t hear it. The ‘nose-leaves’ also aid in this function.
Here is the Vampire Bat!
You’ve got your insect-eating bats. You’ve got your fruit-eating bats. And there is a fish-eating bat that grabs fish out of water with its claws. AND there are your blood-eating bats.
There are three kinds of meat-eating bats that drink the blood of other animals. They rarely bite a person. The vampire bat settles on an animal, like a cow. The bat then makes a shallow wound with his razor-sharp teeth and licks the blood. Vampire bats drink about an ounce of blood each night.
Bat Festival in Austin, Texas
If you happen to be in Austin in the summer, join the celebration of the bat. Dress up like a bat, sample great food, and great music in a great city that loves its bats.
Go ‘batty,’ Smarty Pants Kids. Have a good, safe, and fun October season. We wouldn’t want to have a ‘hug a bat’ day, but now you can appreciate the bat for all the insects he eats that don’t get a chance to bite us!
Want your own bat? Click, print, and color this pdf – Bat Coloring Page.