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Horseshoe Bats: Rhinolophidae

Greater Horseshoe Bat (rhinolophus Ferrumequinum): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The greater horseshoe bats are among the largest species of its family. The length of their head and body combined ranges from 2.2 to 3.1 inches (5.6 to 7.9 centimeters), and its wingspan is from 13.8 to 15.6 inches (35 to 40 centimeters). These bats have large, pointed ears, small eyes, and a flattened face, with a distinct horseshoe-shaped fleshy disc nose. Fur is fine and silky, typically light brown to grayish, with a reddish color. The wings and ears are light gray. Offspring are born gray and turn reddish brown as they grow.

Geographic range: Greater horseshoe bats are found in southern Europe, Great Britain, India, and southern Asia to southern China and Japan. In the United Kingdom they are primarily found only in southwest England and south Wales.

Habitat: These bats live in forest, as well as open land, such as pastures. They roost in caves, mine tunnels, and large buildings.

Greater horseshoe bats can catch their prey, such as this moth, while they are flying. (© Stephen Dalton/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Greater horseshoe bats eat small- to medium-sized insects, including beetles, moths, and flies.

Behavior and reproduction: With their broad wings, greater horseshoe bats fly slowly. These bats can feed by flying low to the ground and catching prey in flight. They also can wait for their prey on a perch, snatching the insect as it passes. They take large prey to a regular feeding perch.

Greater horseshoe bats emerge from their roosts about half an hour before sunset. Between warmer months, May to August, they typically return to their roost after about an hour and remain there until they emerge for a second round of foraging at about dawn. From late August until May they may remain at their roost all night.

Greater horseshoe bats hibernate. They may start hibernating near the entrance of caves, then move to sites deeper within the cave as the weather becomes cooler. The moistness of the caves prevents the bats from losing too much water from their bodies.

Greater horseshoe bats breed in autumn, from September to October, and give birth from June to July (where they've been studied in Europe). Females give birth to one young, after a gestation period of about seventy-five days. The mother hangs upside down while giving birth and the infant is born into her overlapped wings. They can live for up to thirty years.

Greater horseshoe bats and people: People have caused the decline of the greater horseshoe bats by disturbing or destroying their roosts and prey (with pesticide use). In Great Britain, it is estimated that the greater horseshoe bat population has decreased by 90 percent since 1900.

Conservation status: The IUCN Red List classifies the greater horseshoe bat as Near Threatened, meaning it is not yet threatened, but could become so, around the world. But in some areas, such as Europe, this species is considered endangered by national or regional conservation groups. ∎

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