How can anyone in Alberta 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 11 kinds of bats in Alberta?
It’s hard to believe the diversity and amount of species that can be found in Alberta! 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 30.48 centimeters wingspan.
- Brown fur with black ears, wings, and feet. Wings are hairless.
Big Brown Bats are widespread all over Alberta.
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 Alberta 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 of approximately 39.37 centimeters.
- 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 29.21 centimeters.
The Silver-haired Bat is known to fly more slowly than other bats in Alberta.
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 22.86 to 27.94 centimeters.
- Despite its name, it has no connection to the Big Brown Bat.
The Little Brown Bat is common and lives throughout Alberta.
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 33.2 centimeters.
- 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 southeastern Alberta.
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. 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 25.4 centimeters.
- Look for their long pointed ears.
- Also called the Northern Myotis.
Northern Long-eared Bats are found in Alberta 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!
#7. 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 20.32 to 25.4 centimeters.
- Feet are tiny, just as their name suggests.
The Western Small-footed Bat is found in semi-arid habitats in Alberta.
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.
#8. Long-legged Bat
- Myotis Volans
- Fur color can vary from light or dark brown to reddish-brown. Tips of ears touch the side of their nose. Wingspan is approximately 25.4 to 30.48 centimeters.
- Unlike other bats, they have fur on the underside of their wings from their elbows to their 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 and not waste any 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 barks of trees, crevices in rocks, caves, and even buildings. They like to spend time in higher elevations in summer and then in winter will come down and live and hibernate in caves and mines.
Like other bats in Alberta, 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!
#9. Yuma Myotis
- Myotis yumanensis
- Smaller bat, fur varying from dark brown to grayish. Underside fur is dull and pale. Wingspan is approximately 23.876 centimeters.
- Feet are large and wide, ears long straight and thin, short head and broad snout.
These bats are found in many different lowland habitats in Alberta, including coniferous forests and dry scrub forests. However, they are typically always near water.
Yuma Bat Range Map
You will often see them in huge groups in caves, buildings, mines, or other structures.
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 by vegetation as they forage for insects.
Interestingly, these bats will sometimes use their tail membranes as a pouch to catch larger insect prey.
#10. 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 22.86 to 25.4 centimeters.
- 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 Alberta, hunting closer to the ground as the night gets cooler.
Unlike other bats in Alberta, 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!
#11. California Myotis
- Myotis californicus
- Smaller bat with brown fur and black ears, wings, legs, and feet.
- Sloping forehead and a short tail that does not extend past the membrane.
Look for the California Myotis in lower elevations and forested habitats. 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.
Do you need additional help identifying bats in Alberta?
If so, this field guide should be able to help you.
Which of these bats have you seen before in Alberta?
Leave a comment below!