The question of bat habitats is enough to drive one, well, batty, in no small part because there isn’t one answer that can possibly encompass the breadth of living conditions in which bats big and small are found around the world. Many of them spend their time in caves of all kinds. You may even occasionally find them in a tree. Several of them find other places to take up residence and, of course, plenty of them take up residence in belfries, attics, and similar domestic sites.
Bat habitats can be found on every continent except Antarctica, though it is fair to say that they favor warmer climates (hence why you won’t find any flapping around penguins).
From tropical rainforests to grasslands to deserts, you can find bats all over the world, so let’s go globe hopping and see where everyone’s favorite flying creature of the night likes to spend its time and what goes into making a bat’s roost its home.
An Overview of Bats’ Spread
As mentioned above, bats can be found all over the world and where you are will govern what kinds of bats you’ll see in terms of size, diet, behavior, and much more. There are many bats throughout the United States and they overspread the country “from sea to shining sea” and beyond (just ask the Hawaiian Hoary Bat) as well as the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Their geographical range in the country shows off just how varied bat habitats can be. For example, the Lesser-Nosed Bat calls the deserts and caves of Arizona and New Mexico’s deserts home, while the Little Brown Bat noses its way from Alaska to “South of the Border, Down Mexico Way” and many places in between. Speaking of Mexico, the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat comes north to populate Texas and New Mexico. As opposed to these hotter, dustier locales, the Virginia Big-Eared Bat seeks out moist, fungal caves and climes in not just Virginia but Kentucky and North Carolina. The California Big-Eared Bat can also be found in deserts and caves in Nevada while various fruit bats can be found throughout the Eastern US.
While deserts and grasslands can house bats, they are most common in the tropics, with Central and South America being home to a third of the world’s bats and Africa about twenty percent. Indonesia alone has around 175 different species while Southeast Asia is home to many of the world’s flying fox bats, with the Gold-Crowned Flying Fox being native to the Philippines.
What Bats Like in an Environment
First and foremost, bats need somewhere to hide. Bats roost in areas which are dark, secluded, at least somewhat warm, and typically shielded from the light, hence why caves and forests are the two likeliest candidates in the wild, and why you might find them in your attic if you’re not careful.
Also high up on the average bat’s roosting wish list is being located somewhere near food and water sources. This is especially convenient for bats who like to take up residence in caves since these often boast a ton of insects as well, providing its bat habitants with both room and board.
For these reasons, by far one of the most common places to find bats is in caves. That said, what constitutes a “cave” can vary from place to place. Sometimes these are big stony structures and sometimes they are small enclosures. Either way, they should offer the bat enough space while also sheltering them from would-be predators.
Where do bats sleep in such an arrangement? They sleep upside down, which in the case of caves typically means latching onto a stalactite or something similar. Some bats roost in large colonies, sometimes thousands strong or even larger, while others are more solitary.
What about Europe’s bats, you may be wondering? That question is somewhat connected to another, “Do bats live in trees?” The answer is sometimes, and one of the biggest examples of this used to be Europe’s forests. With deforestation, however, Europe’s bat population declined, though happily it has rebounded somewhat in recent years due to dedicated conservation efforts spearheaded by groups such as Eurobats and the Bat Conservation Trust in the UK.
Inside a Bat Nest
The latter group goes into greater detail about different bat roosting conditions, which begs one final question: “What does a bat nest look like?”
The answer is that there isn’t one answer to this because not only do different bats roost in different areas (dusty, forested, and tropical climates, caves and hollow trees, etc.) but they roost and build nests in different places at different times. Bats typically have at least two roosts, a primary one and a migratory one. If neither of these double as a mating roost, that’s a third one they’ll need.
Bats who build nests in the UK rather than simply roost tend to inhabit trees. A savvy bat will often roost in different parts of their “home tree” at different parts of the year. In summer, they often fly up to higher spaces in the tree’s canopy, where they give birth to their young and start to raise them. In winter, as the temperatures drop to freezing, it’s time to seek shelter and so bats will often move to the hollow part of a tree. On average, breeding females prefer warmer conditions to males and non-breeding females.
Not all trees are created equal when it comes to nest potential and oaks, beech, and ash trees are among their favorites. Still, most woodland trees can do once the bats properly adapt to or settle into it, especially if they already have hollowed-out spaces of which they can take advantage.
Bats are among the most common types of mammals on the planet and can be found all over the world in a variety of habitats. While they prefer dark and warm places, be it in a tree or a cave, a bat can make its home in a wide range of places and conditions.