Bats use a variety of landscapes or habitats throughout the year as they feed, roost and travel. They use hunting grounds or foraging habitats to find food and commuting habitats to travel between roosts and foraging habitats. These habitats are vital for bats, which is why the Bat Conservation Trust is working to make more of the landscape bat friendly. For example, we help people create bat friendly gardens, monitor threats to roosts and habitats, present awards for conservation research and contribute to discussions about bats, landscapes and biodiversity. Join us and add your voice to ours!
Check out our interactive bat habitat to learn more about how bats use different features in the landscape to forage and commute.
All UK bat species eat insects, so they look for places with lots of insects to hunt! Some bats prefer waterways, others prefer woods or grassland. Habitat choice can be species-specific and some bats will journey further to seek the habitat they prefer.
Waterways and ponds provide bats with the water to rehydrate – and they also attract midges and other flying insects, which congregate in their thousands and provide a ready feast for bats! Daubenton’s bats are often seen skimming over the top of the water to feed on a variety of water insects and pipistrelles often feed over the water of a river or pond near their roost.
Trees, woodlands and their associated shrubbery attract a wide variety of insects for bats to prey on. The elusive Bechstein’s bat is one of our rarest species, living in woodland areas in parts of southern England and south east Wales. They roost and forage in suitable woodlands of 25 to 50 hectares or more in size, and very rarely venture further afield.
Grasslands and farmlands can also provide good hunting for bats. Dr Roger Ransome has investigated one surprising connection between horseshoe bats and alpaca farms! Some bats come out of hibernation for brief periods in winter to forage for food – but where do they find insects? Dr Ransome’s research in Gloucestershire suggests that alpaca dung dropped in the colder months attracts hungry dung beetles – and dung beetles attract hungry horseshoe bats!
In urban environments, bats often roost in buildings, but they forage in green spaces like gardens, allotments, parks and ponds. You can help encourage bats by planting flowers that attract insects for bats to feed on. You could also do a Sunset Survey to begin finding out more about bats and their behaviour in your neighbourhood.
Many people don’t realise that bats use woodland edges, hedgerows, rivers and other linear features like tree-lined footpaths as corridors to commute from one area of countryside to another. These features act as navigational landmarks and can also provide some protection from predators. As bats fly through the night, their echolocation calls bounce off these landscape features, helping the bats find their way to and from their roosts and foraging habitats.
If bats’ commuting routes are severed (for example, by roads) bats can be cut off from their foraging habitats, making it harder for them to hunt and survive. The Bat Conservation Trust is working to make sure that bat friendly features are spread right across the countryside, rather than solely within protected areas like nature reserves.
To enable UK bat populations to flourish, we need a diverse range of habitat so all our bat species can forage, roost and commute. Please do join the Bat Conservation Trust or support our work to protect bats, roosts and habitats by donating.