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Horseshoe Bats: Rhinolophidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Like all bats, horseshoe bats are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. They begin foraging for their food later in the evening than most other bats, typically hunting about 20 feet (6 meters) above the ground. Horseshoe bats have a fluttering or hovering flight. These bats will catch prey (animals hunted for food) both in flight and on surfaces, such as leaves or branches. Some species also sit on some type of perch, such as a branch, and snatch insects as they fly past. When foraging, or searching, for food on surfaces, called gleaning, these bats find prey on branches, leaves, rocks, and the ground. The bats will eat the insect in flight if they are small enough. If the prey is a large insect, they may take their prey back to a roost or a feeding perch. They can catch the insect in their wings and store it in their cheek.

To locate their prey, horseshoe bats use echolocation (eck-oh-loh-KAY-shun), a technique in which they send out sounds and listen to the sounds that bounce back to locate objects. Horseshoe bats echolocate through their noses, as opposed to most bats, which send out echolocation calls through their mouths. Using echolocation, horseshoe bats can detect the flutter of insects' wings.

Most species gather together to roost, from small colonies of about twenty individuals, to large colonies of up to 2,000 individuals. One species in particular, the woolly horseshoe bat, roosts in pairs. These bats hang freely when they roost, not huddling next to one another to keep warm as do many other bats. When roosting, these bats wrap their wings around themselves, enclosing their entire body.

Species that live in northern areas may hibernate (deep sleep in which an animal conserves energy) during the winter. Other species go into torpor every day. Torpor is a period of inactivity in which an animal's heart rate slows down to conserve energy. At least one species is migratory, meaning they travel to warmer areas when the weather becomes cool. Many species that hibernate can awaken easily and change their hibernating sites occasionally, sometimes flying almost a mile (1,500 meters) or more to a new place.

In some species, including ones that hibernate, females mate during the fall, but fertilization does not occur until the spring. In other species, mating and fertilization occur in the spring. For bats that live in tropical areas, females give birth during the warm summer months. In some species, males and females live together all year, while females form separate colonies in other species. Gestation (pregnancy) ranges from seven weeks to slightly over five months. Bats typically have one offspring per season, and the babies are independent at six to eight weeks of age.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsHorseshoe Bats: Rhinolophidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Horseshoe Bats And People, Conservation Status, Greater Horseshoe Bat (rhinolophus Ferrumequinum): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET