There are 18 species of Bats in the UK. Seventeen of which breed here and some other non-resident bat species such as; Kuhl’s pipistrelle and parti-coloured bat, occasionally blow off course and land here.
However, not all species hang upside down as you may have imagined. In fact, just a small number of them do so.
So what species of bats do we have resident in Britain? Well. You can find out below.
We’ve have listed the most common species. Bats which you are most likely to see around your home and woodlands.
Scientific name: Pipistrellus pipistrellus | Wingspan: 22cm | Body length: 35mm
Actually, there are three species of pipistrelle in the UK. Common, Soprano and Nathusius’. The later only been formally resident since 1997.
Pipistrelle Bats often roost in homes. Either, under a roof tile or in a cavity gap. But can be found roosting in a range of habitats. They generally wake up and leave their roost 15-20 minutes after sunset.
Fast and jerky when flying at around 2-10m above ground level. They feed in a wide range of habitats, including woodland, hedgerows, grassland, farmland, urban gardens. Pipistrelle chases small insects that they catch and eat in flight. A single bat can eat as many as 3,000 insects in one night.
In the summer roosts of the species can usually found in crevices, such as behind hanging tiles, soffits or eaves boarding. They also favour roosting between roof tiles and felt or in cavity walls. Tree holes and crevices, and also in bat boxes are commonly used.
Female bats form maternity colonies, where they give birth to a single young in June. Living in colonies of up 1,000 strong, making them the UK’s most common bat. Pipistrelles are the bats that you are most likely to see.
2. Brown long-eared bat
Scientific name: Plecotus auritus | Wingspan: 25cm | Body length: 45mm
With ears longer than ‘Spock‘ (about 28mm long), the Brown long-eared bat is able to navigate food including the smallest of insects.
They fly close to the ground and sometimes land to catch prey. But this can make long-eared bats a target for predators. Such as cats. Often, they can locate prey from the sounds made by a moth’s wings vibrating. Regularly Brown long-eared bat use perches to feed.
Their feeding roosts are frequently inside loft voids, porches or barns and can be recognised by discarded moth wings in a pile.
During the summer roosts are usually located in older buildings, barns, churches and trees. Long-eared bats generally form small colonies of about 20 individuals. Winter roosts tend to be in caves, tunnels and occasionally even trees and homes.
An individual can live for over 30 years!
Scientific name: Nyctalus noctula | Wingspan: 36cm | Body length: 75mm
One of the largest bats in the UK, The Noctule is usually first out of their evening roost.
Mostly, they are tree dwellers, living mainly in rot cracks and woodpecker holes, Travelling up to 10km away from the roost each evening to forage. They occur in buildings only on rare occasions.
With a flight speed of over 50kph, Noctule bats usually flight at higher altitudes, taking steep dives when chasing prey. A diet of moths, beetles and flying ant been caught on the wing. Occasionally prey is taken from the ground and in urban areas they are known to use street lamps to feed on attracted moths.
During April noctule bats form mixed-sex colonies and can be found in tree holes, buildings and bat boxes. The groups break up in late spring. During the summer, males are solitary or form small bachelor groups. The females gather to create small maternity roosts, usually within a tree hollow.
Scientific name: Myotis daubentonii | Wingspan: 25cm | Body length: 45mm
Also known as the ‘water bat’, Daubenton’s use their tails and large feet to skim water taking prey from the surface. Have you seen a bat out in daylight over water? Well, chances are it was a Daubenton’s.
Usually, summer colonies are in humid sites near water. Such as bridges over canals and rivers, or in tunnels. A friendly bat species, Daubenton’s will happily and are tolerated in roosts formed by pipistrelle, noctule and brown long-eared bats.
With an average colony size of up to 200 in a maternity roost, young pups are suckled for 6 to 8 weeks, where they are then able to fully forage alone. Males or non-breeding females sometimes communal roosts. However, they have been known to join maternity colonies.
Daubenton’s bats can live for up to 22 years.
5. Brandt’s and Whiskered Bat
Scientific name: Myotis brandtii & Myotis mystacinus | Wingspan: 24cm | Body length: 40mm
Separated as individual species during the 1970s, these Myotis bats are very similar. Both are a small bat with the Brandt’s been slightly larger in size.
Emerging within 30 minutes of sunset, Brandt’s and Whiskered bats remain active throughout much of the night. A fast and fluttering flight of 20 metres high, they frequently hunt along a regular hedgerow or woodland route, Gliding briefly among in the canopy.
Whiskered and Brandt’s bats regularly use buildings to roost. A crevice dweller, they often use houses and buildings with stone walls and slate roofs.
Similarly to Daubenton’s, Both species may also roost with pipistrelles or long-eared bats.
6. Lesser Horseshoe
Scientific name: Rhinolophus hipposideros | Wingspan: 25cm | Body length: 45mm
The lesser horseshoe is one of the smallest bats in the UK. A classic upside down ‘hanging’ species, they wrap their wings around the body when sleeping. Easily distinguished from a complex noseleaf look.
Usually, the species are cave dwellers. However, summer colonies are now commonly found in the roofs of larger rural houses and stable blocks. Especially if a nearby cellar, cave or tunnel is available.
Following a period when the bats fly around within the roost testing the conditions outside, the Lesser Horseshoe finally emerges to forage about 30 minutes after sunset.
Flying at just five metres above ground level, large prey is generally taken back to a night roost. Meaning, feeding remains are often found in a pile below their favourite perches.
Mixed-sex maternity colonies of the lesser horseshoe bat are common, with up 20% of the group being male.
Want to learn more about bat species?
On the Bat conservation trust website, there are some in-depth factsheets about all Bats in the UK. You can also listen to how the sound via echolocation on the page.