Woodland specialists

Woodland specialists

While most UK bat species can be found in woodland, some bats are woodland specialists - they have a strong preference for roosting in trees and foraging in woodland. Continuity of cover across the wider landscape is important for our woodland bats.

Bechstein's bat

Bechstein’s bat is a woodland specialist that uses trees all year for mating, rearing young and hibernating. Typically, they roost in deciduous semi-natural or ancient woodlands with a diversity of tree ages and vegetative structure. Roost woodlands are often greater than 25 hectares and have a high proportion of oak in the canopy mix with a well-developed understorey. Woodpecker holes appear most favoured, with rot holes and splits also used. The majority of recorded roosts are in oak, though favoured features in several other tree species including Beech, Ash, birch, poplar, and willow have been recorded. During the maternity season, roost switching will occur frequently, so it’s important to retain a cohort of suitable roost trees with tree holes within the territory of the colony. Further information on Bechstein's bats.


Barbastelles roost in trees year round, usually in ancient or old growth deciduous woods with substantial understorey, a high proportion of standing deadwood or trees that are damaged or over-matured providing the cracks and crevices. The roosts are predominantly found behind loose bark (with oak trees favoured) or in splits and rot cavities of any tree species. The bats frequently move between roosts, so a large number of damaged and dead trees are normally present in favoured woodlands. Upon emergence, they often feed within the woodland in which their roost tree is located until light levels fall. At this stage, they fly beyond the woodland to the wider countryside to forage in more open habitats like wood pasture, parklands, wetlands, over herb-rich meadows and alongside hedgerows and tree lines. They follow features in the landscape such as vegetated waterways or hedgerows to reach their foraging grounds. Further information on barbastelles.

Natterer's bat

In the summer, Natterer's bats generally roost in trees (both deciduous and coniferous), in buildings or bat boxes close to their feeding habitats. Roost trees can also be found in field boundaries, within parkland as well as within woodlands. These habitats may include broad-leaved woodland, hedgerows and treelines along agricultural land - as well as conifer plantations (especially old aged), for example, Corsican and Scots pine. When foraging the Natterer's bat shows a preference for broadleaved woodlands and tree-lined river corridors which they are loyal to. Further information on Natterer's bats.


Noctules are primarily tree dwellers. They are associated with woodlands that have a high proportion of standing deadwood or trees that support tree holes that are used as roosts. The roost features used are mainly woodpecker holes in broadleaved trees as well as rot holes. During the maternity season, roost switching will occur frequently, so it’s important to retain a cohort of suitable roost trees with tree holes within the territory of the colony. Winter roosts are found in trees, (normally tree holes of significant size to house a small group of bats), in woodlands, parkland and wood pasture. They forage over open countryside and will benefit from open parkland and wood pasture. They also forage over large waterbodies and broadleaved woodlands because of the abundance and diversity of insects supported by these habitats. Further information on noctule.

Brown long-eared bat

Brown long-eared bats have a preference for deciduous woodland with a range of trees of different ages, a closed canopy and a cluttered understorey. They have a preference for tree holes when roosting. Being a crevice dweller they are typically found roosting in tree features, including wounds, knot holes, woodpecker holes plus a range of crevices and cavities. They have also been found to use buildings, especially old buildings as well as bat boxes, bird boxes and dormouse boxes. A well-developed understorey clutter, structural diversity and a closed canopy are foraging requirements near a known roost site. Like most bats, brown long-eared bats rarely fly over open areas, instead, they tend to follow hedgerows, tree lines, woodland edges and grassy banks when moving from their roosting grounds to their foraging grounds. Further information on brown long-eared bats.

Lesser horseshoe bat

Not a typical woodland specialist in that they seldom roost in trees but lesser horseshoe bats will enter wooded habitats to forage amongst woodland vegetation. Their manoeuvrable flight allows them to twist and turn between the trees and within dense vegetation, catching small moths and midges as they go. They also feed over pasture and along sheltered hedgerows. Further information on lesser horseshoe bats.

Next: How bats use woodland