New Park Species! Meet the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat
By: Chalisa Fabillar
One of the perks of my job is that ‘going to the office’ is that my “office” is in such close proximity to an amazing diversity of wildlife. Every season, actually every day, there’s a chance to see and/or hear something new. Last Friday was one of those days when I got to see something new.
Our new species is the Brazilian free-tailed bat, sometimes called the Mexican Free-tail bat. Of the 16 species of bat found in Georgia, only this one has a tail that extends past the tail membrane, hence the name free-tailed. (See the little mouse tail?)
Like most bats, these bats are mostly nocturnal insectivores that use echolocation to navigate the night sky and locate food.
These bats will gather in roosts that can be found in caves, under bridges, in tree holes, and sometimes under loosened bark on trees. Their range extends from as far south as South America all the way to North America. In the U.S., they can be found from as far west as Oregon all the way east to North Carolina.
Their predators include red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, owls that will catch them in flight, opossums, raccoons, skunks and several species of snakes that will prey on them in their roosts.
Our sighting occurred during the day, which is a bit odd. If you should happen to see a bat out during the day, you might contact your local animal control agency or GA DNR. You might take some photos from a safe distance and show them off to your friends. But the best thing you can do, for your sake and theirs, is to leave these animals alone. In the words of another, “love ‘em and leave ‘em wild!”
A few other interesting tidbits:
- In some caves, like Carlsbad Caverns, the colonies are so large when they leave en masse at dusk they can be seen on radar as rising “angels.”
- Females can gather in maternity colonies, where they give birth and raise their single pup. These colonies can be as large as millions of members. Think Carlsbad Caverns!
- Because their numbers are so high, they are thought to be the most abundant mammal in North America.
- Bat guano has high concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen. Because of this, it has been collected for fertilizer and to make gunpowder.
- During the Civil War, bat guano caves were used extensively in the South as a source of raw materials for gunpowder manufacture.
- Scientists have found that bats are known to sing! Besides humans, only whales and birds have been detected to engage in this complex activity.
- They can eat up to half their body weight in insects every night. That could be more than a thousand mosquitoes every night.
- Females become sexually mature around nine months, males on the other hand take nearly twice that long. Sound familiar?
- Though brazilian free tailed bats had been residents of the University of Florida football stadium for some time, it was the smell of their poo that eventually led to their removal. Actually, it wasn’t until the governor complained about the odor that university officials came up with a plan to have them safely removed. The university brought in an architect and had a bat house built. It took a few years, but now tens of thousands of bats use specially built bat houses each night. The impressive sight of their dusk and dawn comings and goings regularly draws crowds and has even made to the University’s list of Top 10 sights to see! See streaming video of their colony here.