Nature Discovery with Renée!

Time for an adventure this week with Librarian Renée! Today’s Nature Discovery blog will feature an amazing animal that lives in our neighborhood!

This week’s animal often conjures up images of haunted houses, scary stories, and things that lurk in the dark. Bruce Wayne was so scared of this animal, he made it his symbol so the world would share in his dread. This nighttime hunter may have scared Bruce, but I think if he had looked a little closer, he would have found this animal is the REAL superhero!

Can you guess what I am?

  • I am the only true flying mammal
  • I fly with my fingers
  • I find my food using echolocation
  • I am nocturnal
  • I like to sleep upside down

If you guessed a Bat, you are on target!

Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus)

Bats are the world’s only flying mammal. All mammals are warm-blooded, have a backbone, produce milk for their young, and have hair or fur on their bodies. We are mammals! Another shared trait of mammals is having digits, or fingers and toes.

Even though all mammals have them, they don’t all look alike. When you see a bat’s wings you are looking at its fingers. Their fingers are covered with a membrane similar to our fingerprints. Batman may be able to take to the skies, but his namesake can fly without high tech gadgetry.

The majority of bats species in the US are insectivores, meaning their diet consists only of insects. The remaining species are frugivores, meaning they live on the nectar and fruit of plants. Despite all the scary bat stories, the only thing that really needs to fear our local bats are the mosquitoes! All Boulder County bats are insectivores–these busy bats can catch and eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour! That’s a SUPER appetite and a remarkable feat!

Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii)

People often mistakenly think bats are blind, hence the expression ‘blind as a bat,’ but bats are not blind, they just “see” better with their ears! Bats use echolocation to find their next meal. Echolocation uses sound waves to locate a position of an insect, or tree, our cave, or anything! A bat will send out a high-pitched sound that will then bounce off the object it is searching for, sending back a reflective sound wave, or echo. The returning sound tells the bat the object’s exact location. Bats are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night, and echolocation helps them to “see” in the dark. Batman has figured how to do this and so can you!

Batman is swift on his feet, but bats are not. A bat’s legs are structured to be used more as a hand than a leg. They are used for bringing food into its mouth when flying. Most bats can barely crawl. Flying is what they do best. This is one of the reasons bats hang upside down when resting or roosting. Hanging upside down also helps bats make a quick getaway.

Roosting Little Brown Bat

Our local bats like to roost in caves, trees, buildings, and on rock faces, such as the Flatirons. Many bats are social, preferring to roost in tight groups, or colonies.Roosting in a colony helps protect individuals from predators, keeps them warm during the winter when they hibernate, and allows the bats to share resources, such as food and caring for offspring.

These amazing creatures of the night often go unseen, but their presences can be felt in the lives we live and the foods we eat. Bats are a significant predator of insects–not just the insects that impact our enjoyment of the great outdoors, but also insects that lead to crop devastation. A robust bat population can drastically reduce the need for chemical pesticides. Bats also help to pollinate plants and disperse seeds all over the planet. The agave and saguaro cactuses depend on the bat for pollination as do bananas, figs, dates, and cashews. Without bats, many ecosystems would fail. Even bat waste is useful! Bat scat, or guano, is used for fertilizer, detergents, and antibiotics. Bats are the ecological superhero we need!

If you are as batty for bats as I am, here’s a fun outdoor activity for all: use echolocation to find your friends! All you need is a blindfold and a few willing friends.

Want to learn more about bats?  The library has many bat books to choose from.  Here is one of my favorites: Bats, by Jennifer Zeiger

Until next time, Happy Adventures! -Renée

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