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Bats: Chiroptera - Diet

insects eat flying eating

While the most famous bats are the vampire bats, known for eating blood, the majority of bats eat only insects. Microchiroptera are generally carnivores, meat-eaters, that feed on insects, such as moths, flying beetles, and mosquitoes. Bats can capture insects while flying by catching them in their mouths or scooping them into their tails or wing membranes. Some bats pick the insects off leaves or the ground. One gray bat may eat up to 3,000 insects in one night.

Some bats feed on larger prey, animals hunted or caught for food, such as fish, frogs, birds, mice and other bats. A fisheating bat will swoop down and grab fish with its claws. A bat that eats mice will swoop down, wrap the prey in its wings, bite it and then whisk it away to eat it.

The three species of vampire bats are the only bats that feed on blood, sucking up the blood of cattle, sheep, or other relatively large animals. The bats use their razor-sharp teeth to pierce the animal's skin, often while the animal is sleeping. The bats then lap up about 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) for their meal.

Most megachiropteran species are herbivores, plant-eaters, eating fruit, seeds, leaves, nectar, and pollen. Whatever it eats, bats eat only the parts of their prey that they want to ingest. When a bat catches an insect, it will generally bite off and drop its wings and legs. When eating another bat or bird it will not ingest its wings. An Old World fruit bat will chew its fruit thoroughly, swallow the juices then spit out the remaining pulp.

Bats drink by flying close to the water and taking up the water while flying. With the exception of three species of nectar-feeding bats that live along the Mexican border of Arizona and Texas, bats in the United States and Canada eat insects.

Bats: Chiroptera - Behavior And Reproduction [next] [back] Bats: Chiroptera - Habitat

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