How can anyone in Oklahoma 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 18 kinds of bats in Oklahoma?
It’s hard to believe the diversity and amount of species that can be found in Oklahoma! 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 Oklahoma.
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 Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma.
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 eastern Oklahoma.
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 Oklahoma.
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 Oklahoma!
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 11 Types of Frogs in Oklahoma!
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.
#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 Oklahoma.
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. Eastern Small-footed Bat
- Myotis leibii
- Small bat with a short flat head and a dark black face that resembles a dark mask.
- Black ears, wings, and feet. Shiny brown dense fur, pointy ears, and sloped forehead. Their wingspan is approximately 8 to 10 inches.
The Eastern Small-footed Bat is one of the smallest bats in Oklahoma.
Eastern Small-footed Bats get their name from their abnormally small hind feet, which you can see in the photo above.
Eastern Small-footed Bat Range Map
This species, like most bats, feeds on flying insects such as moths, beetles, and flies. But the Eastern Small-footed is capable of filling their stomachs within an hour of eating. So these bats prefer fast food to fine dining. 🙂
The Eastern Small-footed Bat has more extended thumbs and claws at the top of its wings than other bats. This adaptation helps them immensely because they spend much of their time climbing in rocky areas.
This species has several threats, including White-nose syndrome, water pollution, and human disturbance during hibernation. Even small amounts of noise and light are enough to wake bats. When a bat wakes up during hibernation, it expends energy and depletes its fat reserves to survive winter. So sadly, if a bat is repeatedly disturbed, it will likely die and not live until spring.
#10. Indiana Bat
- Myotis sodalist
- The fur can be black or dark brown, and the belly can be light gray to reddish-brown. Their wingspan is approximately 9 to 11 inches.
- The best way to tell them apart from other brown bats is their pink lips.
The Indiana Bat is highly endangered in Oklahoma.
Its population has decreased by more than 50% over the past 10 years. But, unfortunately, they can quickly spread White-nose Syndrome to each other because they hibernate in such large groups.
Indiana Bat Range Map
These bats live in a variety of habitats all over northeastern Oklahoma. First, they’re found primarily in hardwood forests in giant trees. Then in winter, many of these species get together in different caves and hibernate in large masses.
#11. 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.
#12. 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 Oklahoma!
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.
#13. 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 Oklahoma.
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.
#14. Seminole Bat
- Lasiurus seminolus
- Smaller bat with round and short ears. Wingspan is approximately 8 to 10 inches.
- Darker red fur with white-tipped hairs on their back
Seminole Bats are mainly found in forests in Oklahoma.
Seminole Bat Range Map
In particular, they’re closely associated with forests that have Spanish moss since that is where they roost during spring and winter. Professional moss gatherers often find these bats inside clumps.
Even though Seminole Bats seem to be common, not much research has been done on them. For example, scientists have no idea about their average lifespan.
These bats are insectivores and feed primarily on ants, bees, wasps, beetles, and moths. Interestingly, they take advantage of street lights that attract lots of bugs.
#15. Yuma Myotis
- Myotis yumanensis
- Smaller bat, fur varying from dark brown to grayish. Underside fur is dull and pale. Wingspan is approximately 9.4 inches.
- 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 Oklahoma, 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.
#16. Southeastern Myotis
- Myotis austroriparius
- The fur varies from bright orange-brown to gray. The wingspan is approximately 9 to 11 inches.
- Females are often more brightly colored than males.
Southeastern Myotis prefer to live in bottomland hardwood forests in Oklahoma.
Look for them near water, as this is where they like to roost and search for food. The diet of the Southeastern Myotis consists mainly of caddisflies.
Southeastern Myotis Range Map
The Southeastern Myotis are a crucial food source for the Barred Owl during nesting season. Interesting, when it’s not the nesting season, the owls tend to leave the bats alone.
This species is unique compared to other bats in Oklahoma because females primarily have twins. Most other bats only have one offspring.
#17. Pallid Bat
- Antrozous pallidus
- Larger bat with long, super thin, forward-pointing ears. The wingspan is approximately 15 to 16 inches.
- Tiny face with a pig-like snout.
- Fur is brown and creamy white by the root on their back, and cream color on the underside.
The Pallid Bat is the most unique-looking in Oklahoma!
I just love its unique, pig-like nose! Look for them in habitats that consist of deserts, grasslands, canyons, and mixed forests.
Pallid Bat Range Map
Pallid Bats eat various foods, including both 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.
#18. 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 Oklahoma?
If so, this field guide should be able to help you.
Which of these bats have you seen before in Oklahoma?
Leave a comment below!