Bechstein’s bats have very long, distinctive ears (although not as long as the long-eared bats), which curl back slightly at the tips. They have a bare pink face and shaggy yellow-brown fur. They emerge after dark and use features such as roads and hedges to navigate from their roosts to their feeding sites. They have broad wings and are able to fly slowly, often high up amongst the trees, and can snatch insects from leaves or even from the ground. They will feed in cold and wet but not windy weather. Bechstein’s bats were first identified on the continent and were named after a 19th century German naturalist.
Summer roosts Mostly natural holes (eg woodpecker holes) in mature trees and sometimes bat boxes. They are rarely found in houses.
Winter roosts It is thought that they spend the winter mainly in trees but they are occasionally seen in underground sites, especially limestone mines.
Breeding Mate between autumn and spring and groups of about 30 females form maternity colonies in late April/May. The young are born in June and early July and disperse by the end of August. The males are solitary.
Diet Mostly moths, mosquitoes, flies and beetles.
Habitat Open woodland, woodland edges, over water and marshes, farmland, along hedgerows, suburban gardens and urban areas.
Ultrasound Bechstein’s are very quiet bats and can be difficult to detect on a bat detector. They have short calls that peak at about 50kHz.
Status & distribution Bechstein’s bats are very rare and endangered. They are a very localised species found mainly in southern England, in Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Did you know? Skeletons from 3000 year old deposits suggest that Bechstein’s were once present in the UK in much higher numbers. Their decline may be due to the removal of deciduous woodland throughout the whole country.