How can anyone in Nebraska 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. 🙂
Did you know there are 14 kinds of bats in Nebraska?
It’s hard to believe the diversity and amount of species that can be found in Nebraska! But, unfortunately, when you see a bat, it’s typically pretty difficult to determine which kind of bat it is. These nocturnal creatures fly incredibly fast and are only active at night.
#1. Big Brown Bat
- Eptesicus fuscus
- Larger-sized bat with around a 12-inch wingspan.
- Brown fur with black ears, wings, and feet. Wings are hairless.
Big Brown Bats are widespread all over Nebraska.
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 Nebraska even use bat boxes to attract Big Brown Bats to their property!
Though rabies is common in all bats, research has shown the disease is rarer in this species.
The reason for this fact is that many Big Brown Bats have immunity to rabies. Interestingly, 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 approximately 15.5 inches.
- Males are almost double the size of females.
You’ll typically find Hoary Bats roosting on trees in woodland forests. But occasionally, they will go into caves to stay with other bats.
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 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 being a tree as they seek a place to rest. As you can imagine, these bats meet a horrible death.
#3. Silver-haired Bat
- Lasionycteris noctivagans
- Medium-sized bat, flathead, and the upper part of the tail are covered in thick fur.
- Mostly black all over with white tips on hairs, with a wingspan that is approximately 11.5 inches.
The Silver-haired Bat is known to fly more slowly than other bats in Nebraska.
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.
Unfortunately, rabies occurs more often in this species when compared to other bats.
#4. Little Brown Bat
- Myotis lucifugus
- Glossy brown fur on the body. Wings are hairless and black with a wingspan that is approximately 9 to 11 inches.
- Despite its name, it has no connection to the Big Brown Bat.
The Little Brown Bat is common and lives throughout Nebraska.
Look for them in sheltered places such as human structures, woodpiles, tree hollows, and occasionally caves.
Little Brown Bat Range Map
Little Brown Bats will commonly use a bat house for roosting. Many people put up bat houses to attract them to their property to control pests like mosquitos or insects that harm crops.
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. Eastern Red Bat
- Lasiurus borealis
- Medium-sized tree bat with thick, long fur. Ears are short and round. Wings are long, pointed, and have a wingspan of approximately 13 inches.
- Males have distinctive rusty red-colored fur, and females have more of a soft shade of red.
- Both have white patches of fur on their shoulder.
Eastern Red Bats like to roost in trees in Nebraska.
I love their red fur, which I think makes them look cute!
Eastern Red Bat Range Map
These bats are relatively fast flyers with good maneuverability. They are insectivorous, which means they prey primarily on different insects, with their favorite being moths.
Unlike most bats that only produce one offspring, Eastern Red Bats have three pups in a litter.
Eastern Red Bats have few predators. However, sometimes hawks, aggressive Blue Jays, and crows will attack them. This bat is also killed by flying into cars or wind turbines. Unfortunately, this species has the second-highest mortality rate from wind turbines.
#6. Tricolored Bat
- Perimyotis subflavus
- Small bat with blond hair on the chest. Their wingspan is approximately 8 to 10 inches.
- The “tricolor” name comes from the coloration of the three distinct bands of hairs on their back: dark gray on the bottom, yellowish-brown in the middle, and brown or reddish-brown on top.
- Formerly known as the Eastern Pipistrelle.
The Tricolored Bat is the smallest in Nebraska!
Despite their small stature, Tricolored Bats can live to be 15 years old, which is a long time for bats! And interestingly, Tricolored Bats mate in the fall, but the female stores the sperm and doesn’t become pregnant until spring.
Tricolored Bat Range Map
Did you know the Tricolored Bat’s natural predators include many birds of prey, snakes, skunks, other bats, and Northern Leopard Frogs? It’s crazy to think of a frog eating a bat, but it shows how tiny these mammals are!
Related Article: The 7 Types of Frogs in Nebraska!
Tricolored Bats used to be considered one of the most common bats around. But, unfortunately, their numbers have been decimated by White-nose Syndrome. It’s thought that 70% of their population has succumbed to this fungal disease.
#7. Northern Long-eared Bat
- Myotis septentrionalis
- Fur and wing membranes are tan, with black ears and black wings: long tail and a wingspan up to 10 inches.
- Look for their long pointed ears.
- Also called the Northern Myotis.
Northern Long-eared Bats are found in Nebraska in forested habitats with spruce and pine trees. They typically roost in trees during the summer and switch to a new roost every other day. In the fall, these bats migrate to caves to hibernate together with other species of bats.
Northern Long-eared Bat Range Map
Northern Long-eared Bats have incredibly accurate echolocation calls, which helps them navigate their dense forest environments.
Unlike most bats, Northern Long-eared Bats capture their prey by plucking them from a surface rather than catching them while in flight. They eat insects, with moths being their favorite.
Sadly, the Northern Long-eared Bat has been threatened by White-nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that kills many bats. This disease has decreased their population by 99%. Click play to learn more below!
#8. Evening Bat
- Nycticeius humeralis
- Smaller bat with a prominent dog-like jaw.
- The majority are dark brown with black muzzle, ears, legs, and wings, but some are a lighter brown. Their wingspan is approximately 10.5 inches.
The Evening Bat doesn’t enter or even hibernate in caves, which is good news because that helps them avoid White-nose syndrome, a terrible disease that has killed millions of bats over the years.
But the bad news is:
They have a shorter life span than other bats in Nebraska.
Evening Bat Range Map
Most only live for 4 years, but some are lucky enough to make it to 6 years.
Look for Evening Bats roosting in structures, including tree cavities, under bark, in Spanish moss, and buildings. They eat a wide variety of insects, including beetles, moths, winged ants, and flies.
#9. 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, colors vary from grayish brown to brown. Their wingspan is approximately 12 to 13 inches.
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 comes in 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.
#10. Mexican Free-tailed Bat
- Tadarida brasiliensis
- Smaller bat with gray fur on front and back, 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 12 to 14 inches.
The Mexican Free-tailed Bat is the fastest in Nebraska!
Their long narrow wings help make them quick and have direct flight patterns while catching their flying prey. They also use echolocation to help to 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.
#11. 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 8 to 10 inches.
- Feet are tiny, just as their name suggests.
The Western Small-footed Bat is found in semi-arid habitats in Nebraska.
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.
#12. Long-eared Myotis
- Myotis evotis
- Face and ears are black. The fur on their back ranges from yellowish to dark brown. The wingspan is approximately 9 to 10 inches.
- Long dark ears, which is how they got their name.
The Long-eared Myotis 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 other bats in Nebraska, hunting closer to the ground as the night gets cooler.
Unlike other bats in Nebraska, the Long-eared Myotis often turn off echolocation when hunting. Instead, their long ears help them HEAR prey the old-fashioned way. Click play below to see an example!
#13. Fringed Myotis
- Myotis thysanodes
- Smaller bat with long ears and a tiny face. The wingspan is approximately 10.4 to 11.8 inches.
- Light yellowish-brown or dark greenish fur and back and off-white on the underside, brownish-black ears, wings, and legs.
In Nebraska, 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.
The Fringed Myotis echolocation is different from other bats. They start by flying in a downward swoop and then begin to search for food.
#14. Cave Myotis
- Myotis velifer
- Medium-sized bat with brown or grayish black fur on its back and a lighter color on its underside.
- Ears are pointed and short, eyes are tiny, and wingspan is approximately 11 to 12.5 inches.
You’d think the Cave Bat just lives in caves, but they also roost in mines, rock crevices, barns, under bridges, and inside empty buildings.
In the summer, these bats roost in groups of up to 5,000 individuals!
Cave Bat Range Map
Most bats have a well-developed homing ability, allowing them to leave a familiar place and find their way back. Unfortunately, the Cave Myotis doesn’t have this helpful adaptation. Instead, they use their sense of smell and vision to aid in finding their way around.
Do you need additional help identifying bats in Nebraska?
If so, this field guide should be able to help you.
Which of these bats have you seen before in Nebraska?
Leave a comment below!