How can anyone in California think that bats are scary?
Despite what you see in the movies, these fascinating flying mammals wouldn’t hurt a fly! Well, technically, they would hurt a fly, or a mosquito, or a moth. But other than that, bats are harmless. 🙂
It’s hard to believe the diversity and amount of bat species that can be found in California! But, unfortunately, when you see a bat, it’s typically pretty difficult to determine which kind it is. These nocturnal creatures fly incredibly fast and are only active at night.
20 kinds of bats in California:
#1. Big Brown Bat
- Eptesicus fuscus
- It is a larger bat with around a 12-inch (30 cm) wingspan.
- Brown fur with black ears, wings, and feet. Wings are hairless.
Big Brown Bats are among the most common bats in California.
If you look, you’ll find these bats inside caves, tunnels, or other human structures.
Big Brown Bat Range Map
This nocturnal bat primarily eats insects, especially ones that fly at night. However, their preference is to eat beetles.
The Cucumber Beetle is their favorite, which benefits farmers because these insects are terrible pests for agriculture. Many farmers in California even use bat boxes to attract Big Brown Bats to their property!
Interestingly, many Big Brown Bats have immunity to rabies. Researchers discovered that these rabies antibodies get passed down from generation to generation!
#2. Hoary Bat
- Lasiurus cinereus
- Brown hair with grayish-white tips. Wings and belly are brown and hairless, with a wingspan of approximately 15.5 inches (39 cm).
- Males are almost double the size of females.
You’ll typically find Hoary Bats in California roosting on trees in woodland forests. They are solitary bats that roost in open foliage. They do form “flocks” when migrating south in late summer, but they don’t hang out with other bats normally.
Hoary Bat Range Map
This species prefers to hunt for prey while flying over wide-open areas or lakes. Hoary Bats hunt alone and enjoy eating moths. They’re known to travel up to 24 miles (39 km) in a single night to gather food!
Though the Hoary Bat is not endangered, it does suffer a loss in numbers because of wind turbines. Hoarys migrate each year back and forth from North America to Central America, and it’s thought that they confuse the wind turbine with a tree as they seek a place to rest.
#3. Silver-haired Bat
- Lasionycteris noctivagans
- Medium-sized with a flathead. The upper part of the tail is covered in thick fur.
- Mostly black all over with white tips on hairs, with a wingspan of approximately 11.5 inches (29 cm).
This species is known to fly more slowly than other bats in California.
Look for Silver-haired Bats in forests inside tree cavities or bark crevices. They’ve also been known to seek shelter in outbuildings.
Silver-haired Bat Range Map
Silver-haired Bats hunt for soft-bodied insects, such as moths. Interestingly, they also eat a lot of spiders. They accomplish this feat by foraging low to the ground to find food, unlike many other bats.
#4. Little Brown Bat
- Myotis lucifugus
- Glossy brown fur on the body. Wings are hairless and black, with a wingspan of approximately 10 inches (25 cm).
- Despite its name, it has no connection to the Big Brown Bat.
Look for the Little Brown Bat roosting in California in sheltered places such as human structures, woodpiles, tree hollows, and occasionally caves.
You can even attract Little Brown Bats to your yard! Many people put up bat houses to attract them to their property to control pests like mosquitos or insects that harm crops.
- RELATED: The 7 BEST Bat Houses For Sale! (All price ranges)
Little Brown Bat Range Map
Distribution of all little brown bat subspecies: M. l. lucifugus (red), M. l. pernox (green), M. l. alascensis (blue), M. l. carissima (yellow), M. l. relictus (gray)
Little Brown Bats only have a few natural predators, like owls or raccoons. Unfortunately, most of their mortality is caused by parasites or White-nose syndrome.
White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease that grows around the bats’ mouths, ears, and wings. This illness is spread during hibernation and is responsible for the loss of over one million Little Brown Bats between 2006 and 2011. As of 2018, the Little Brown Bat is an endangered species.
#5. Townsend’s Big-eared Bat
- Corynorhinus townsendii
- Medium-sized bat with extraordinarily long and thin ears. Lumps on each side of the nose.
- Dense fur all over, and colors vary from grayish brown to brown. Their wingspan is approximately 12 inches (30 cm).
It’s pretty easy to see how these bats got their name! Their large ears are essential, as they help them distinguish between ambient noise and sounds of prey or predators.
Townsend’s Big-eared Bat Range Map
During summer, males and females inhabit different roosting sites. Males live alone, while females form colonies where they raise their pups.
This species is known as a “whisper bat” because it echolocates much lower than other bats. This is handy when foraging on moths because moths can hear bats’ echolocation. So, as you can see, being quieter gives Townsend’s Big-eared Bat an advantage.
#6. Mexican Free-tailed Bat
- Tadarida brasiliensis
- a Smaller bat with gray fur on the front and back. The face, ears, wings, and legs are light black.
- Ears are short and rounded, with lines inside and ruffled on the bottom.
- Wings are elongated and narrow with pointed tips. Their wingspan is approximately 13 inches (33 cm).
The Mexican Free-tailed Bat is the fastest bat in California!
Their long, narrow wings help make them quick and have direct flight patterns while catching their flying prey. They also use echolocation to help them navigate in the night sky.
Mexican Free-tailed Bat Range Map
This species primarily roosts in caves, but they can be found in any structure with an opening and dark hiding place.
Mexican Free-tailed Bats have glands in their skin that cover their body. These glands leave a scent that other bats can smell, so they know that this roost is only for the Mexican Free-tailed Bats.
#7. Big Free-tailed Bat
- Nyctinomops macrotis
- Fur can vary in color from pale to reddish-brown or blackish. Glossy in color.
- Wings are thin, long, and narrow. Their wingspan is approximately 17 inches (43 cm).
This bat primarily lives in rugged and rocky terrain in California, where it stays inside crevices. However, you can also find them roosting in plants or trees, such as Douglas firs, ponderosa pines, and desert shrubs. Every year, they migrate to Mexico.
Big Free-tailed Bat Range Map
The Big Free-tailed Bat is nocturnal and only leaves its roost after the sun goes down to search for food. They mainly eat giant moths but also hunt ground insects like crickets and stinkbugs.
While Big Free-tailed Bats are hunting, you can hear their loud chatter.
This species is a strong flyer and tends to wander, which sometimes means they are found in residential homes. Though the Big Free-tailed Bat is not aggressive, it will bite if cornered or handled.
#8. Western Small-footed Myotis
- Myotis ciliolabrum
- Smaller bat, with yellowish-brown fur and sometimes white underparts.
- The muzzle, chin, and ears are black. Ears are also long. Their wingspan is approximately 9 inches (23 cm).
- Feet are tiny, just as their name suggests.
The Western Small-footed Bat is found in semi-arid habitats in California.
Though this bat is a slower flyer, it can maneuver well. The Western Small-footed Bat tends to feed close to the water, searching for insects like beetles, moths, and flies.
Western Small-footed Bat Range Map
Western Small-footed Bat females roost in groups, and males roost alone, but both hibernate in winter in solitude.
#9. Long-legged Bat
- Myotis Volans
- Fur color can vary from light or dark brown to reddish-brown. Tips of their can actually touch their nostrils. Wingspan is approximately 9 inches (23 cm).
- Unlike other bats, they have fur on the underside of their wings from elbows to knees.
- They got their name from having a longer tibia bone when compared to other bats.
The Long-legged Bat has unique feet that allow them to hang upside down for an extended time without wasting energy. This feat is accomplished by locking their toes in place. In addition, special cavities in their head prevent blood from going to their brain.
Long-legged Bat Range Map
These bats prefer to roost in the barks of trees and crevices in rocks, caves, and buildings. They like to spend time in higher elevations in the summer, and then in the winter, they will come down and live and hibernate in caves and mines.
Like other bats in California, they primarily eat mainly moths using echolocation. However, the Long-legged Bat differs because they get a head start over other bats! They do this by leaving their roost early, foraging before sunset, and then eating throughout the entire night.
Check out this video to see how the Long-legged Bat uses echolocation to catch moths!
#10. Yuma Myotis
- Myotis yumanensis
- Smaller bat, fur varying from dark brown to grayish. Underside fur is dull and pale.
- The feet are large and wide. The ears are long, straight, and thin, with a short head and broad snout.
- The wingspan is approximately 9.4 inches (24 cm).
These bats are found in many different lowland habitats in California, including coniferous forests and dry scrub forests.
However, they are typically always near water. You will often see them in huge groups in caves, buildings, mines, or other structures.
Yuma Bat Range Map
The Yuma bat is an opportunistic hunter and is not picky about what it eats. They will consume whatever is most abundant in that area, such as beetles and other soft-bodied insects. Look for them flying over slow-moving water or vegetation as they forage for insects.
Interestingly, these bats will sometimes use their tail membranes as a pouch to catch larger insect prey.
#11. Long-eared Myotis
- Myotis evotis
- Their face and ears are black. The fur on their back ranges from yellowish to dark brown. The wingspan is approximately 10 inches (25 cm).
- Long dark ears, which is how they got their name.
This bat is found in woodlands, shrublands, grasslands, and agricultural areas. This species leaves its roosts in rocky regions, dead trees, caverns, and buildings to forage insects in dense vegetation.
Long-eared Myotis Range Map
The Long-eared Myotis is active longer at night than most other bats, hunting closer to the ground as the night gets cooler.
Unlike other bats in California, the Long-eared Myotis often turns off echolocation when hunting. Instead, their long ears help them HEAR prey the old-fashioned way. Click play below to see an example!
#12. Fringed Myotis
- Myotis thysanodes
- Smaller bat with long ears and a tiny face. The wingspan is approximately 11 inches (28 cm).
- Light yellowish-brown or dark greenish fur and back and off-white on the underside, brownish-black ears, wings, and legs.
In California, you’ll find the Fringed Myotis in desert shrublands, sagebrush grasslands, and woodland habitats with pine and oak trees.
Fringed Myotis Range Map
These bats have a diet that consists primarily of beetles.
The Fringed Myotis has a fringe of short, wire-like hairs on the membrane between its hind legs, which is how it got its name. It has been thought that these hairs help it catch insects while flying.
#13. Pallid Bat
- Antrozous pallidus
- It is a larger bat with long, super thin, forward-pointing ears. The wingspan is approximately 15 inches (38 cm).
- Tiny face with a pig-like snout.
- Fur is brown and creamy white on their back and cream color on the underside.
The Pallid Bat is the most unique-looking in California!
I love its unique, pig-like nose! Look for them in habitats of deserts, grasslands, canyons, and mixed forests.
Pallid Bat Range Map
Pallid Bats eat various foods, including ground and flying insects, nectar, and scorpions. They like a balanced diet with their food buzzing, sweet, and spicy.
This loud bat is known to bare its teeth and buzz when frightened or angered.
#14. Spotted Bat
- Euderma maculatum
- The fur on the back is black with three distinct white spots. The underbelly is white.
- Tiny gray face with HUGE pinkish ears. The wingspan is approximately 14 inches (35.5 cm).
This species has the most oversized ears of any bat in California!
Spotted Bat ears are unique because their ears roll up around their head when they’re resting. And then, when they become active, the ears fill up with blood and unroll.
Spotted Bat Range Map
Some Spotted Bats hibernate in cold weather, which means their heart rate slows, and their body temperature falls to their surroundings. Other individuals will migrate to warmer weather.
Spotted Bats are very territorial and prefer to live in solitude.
This bat is one of only a few bats with an echolocation sound low enough to be heard by humans!
#15. California Myotis
- Myotis californicus
- Smaller bat with brown fur and black ears, wings, legs, and feet.
- The forehead is sloping, and the tail is short and does not extend past the membrane.
- The wingspan is 9 to 10 inches (23-25 cm)
Look for this bat in California in forested habitats in lower elevations. They roost in rock crevices, dead or hollowed trees, under loose bark, and buildings in the summer. In winter, you’ll find them in caves or mines.
California Myotis Range Map
The females and males roost in separate places during the summer but then reunite during hibernation.
The California Myotis flies slower and more erratic as it hunts near the edges of the forest or over water.
#16. Canyon Bat
- Parastrellus Hesperus
- Smaller bat. Fur color can vary from golden brown to reddish-brown.
- The face, wings, ears, and legs are black. The wingspan is approximately 8 inches (20 cm).
The Canyon Bat is mainly found in California in rocky areas near water, like canyons, cliffs, under loose rocks, and caves.
Canyon Bat Range Map
Since this bat is small, its most common predators are owls. But, unfortunately, these little guys also sometimes have to worry about predation from other larger bat species.
Interestingly, the Canyon Bat has been known to occupy rodent burrows in the ground if their habitat doesn’t provide sufficient shelter.
#17. Western Mastiff Bat
- Eumops perotis
- Fur is dark grayish brown or brown with white roots that are usually visible. The tail is very long and extends way past their wings. The wingspan is approximately 20 to 23 inches (50 to 58 cm).
- Large ears that project over the eyes, which is how they got their name.
- Also known as the Western Bonneted Bat, Greater Mastiff Bat, or the Greater Bonneted Bat.
The Western Mastiff Bat is the largest bat species in California.
But their wings are narrow, which makes them fast but not good at maneuvering while in flight.
Western Mastiff Bat Range Map
Look for these bats in deserts, canyons, scrublands, and urban areas. They are in high places, such as crevices on cliffs, which allows them to drop and launch into flight.
Unfortunately, they’re known to leave urine stains on cliff faces. So, if you are in that area and see colors on the cliff, now you know what it is.
Unlike other bats, Western Mastiff Bats don’t migrate nor go through any period of hibernation.
#18. Pocketed Free-tailed Bat
- Nyctinomops femorosaccus
- Medium-sized bat with gray fur. The ears join at the middle of the forehead,
- The tail is long and sticks way out. The wingspan is approximately 12 inches (30.5 cm).
- Skinfold stretches from the inner side of the femur to the middle of the tibia, which produces a pocket. This feature is how the Pocket Free-tailed Bats got their name.
The Pocketed Free-tailed Bat lives in the deserts of California.
Look for Pocketed Free-tailed Bats roosting in large colonies inside caves, tunnels, mines, and rock crevices.
Pocketed Free-tailed Bat Range Map
Like many other bats in California, they use echolocation to find their prey, and they catch them in mid-flight.
Pocketed Free-tailed Bats ONLY eat insects. Therefore, moths, crickets, stinkbugs, froghoppers, and lacewings are typically on the menu each evening.
#19. California Leaf-nosed Bat
- Macrotus californicus
- The fur is grayish. Ears are huge and rounded.
- The wingspan is approximately 13 inches (33 cm).
- The distinguishing feature is the nose, which looks like a leaf.
California Leaf-nosed Bats are easy to identify in California.
Just look for their unique leaf-shaped nose and enormous ears. 🙂
California Leaf-nosed Bat Range Map
Look for this species in desert scrublands, where they forage for insects, caterpillars, and cacti fruit.
This bat is known for its short, broad wings, which give them excellent maneuverability while flying.
California Leaf-nosed Bats roost in large caves and mines. Interestingly, they have always been into “social distancing” because individuals avoid touching each other as they roost, which is unique among bats.
#20. Mexican Long-tongued bat
- Choeronycteris Mexican
- Fur is longer than most other bats and can be gray to brownish and lighter on shoulders.
- Ears are the same color as the body, and they vary in size. The tail is short. The wingspan is approximately 14 inches (35.5 cm).
- Leaf-shaped nose at the end of a long snout. The tongue is thin and long and extends to eat nectar.
Because of its long snout, the Mexican Long-tongued Bat looks incredibly unique! In addition, they don’t eat insects like most other bats in California. Instead, they feed on nectar, pollen from agaves, and fruits.
As their name suggests, these bats have an incredibly long tongue about a third the length of their body. Mexican Long-tongued Bats use this tongue to reach nectar deep inside flowers. Interestingly, some even visit hummingbird feeders to sip on sugar water.
Mexican Long-tongued Bat Range Map
You can find these bats roosting inside caves or abandoned buildings. They do not cluster together and tend to keep 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) apart.
Interestingly, they hang by a single foot, which allows them to rotate while roosting or perching.
Do you need additional help identifying bats in California?
If so, this field guide should be able to help you.
Which of these bats have you seen before in California?
Leave a comment below!