Hoary bat

Lasiurus cinereus

SUBFAMILY

Vespertilioninae

TAXONOMY

Lasiurus cinereus (Beauvois, 1796), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Three subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Chauve-souris cendrée; German: Weißgraue Fledermaus; Spanish: Murcielago blanquizco.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length ranges 5.1-5.9 in (13-15 cm), weight about 0.88-1.23 oz (25-35 g), and forearm length 1.8-2.2 in (4.6-5.5 cm). Large, dark brown to dark gray bats with white-tipped fur and a wingspan that can reach 12 in (30.5 cm). Unusually, its tail membrane and parts of its wings are lined with fur. The dental formula is (I1/3 C1/1 P2/2 M3/3) X 2 = 32.

DISTRIBUTION

Throughout the continental United States, Mexico, and Central America, north into south-central and southeastern Canada, and as far south as Argentina and Chile in South

America. They are also found in Hawaii, where they are the only native land mammal.

HABITAT

Wide-ranging from deserts to tundra to mountains, but most common in deciduous and coniferous forests.

BEHAVIOR

Migratory bats that leave their summer haunts in late summer to early fall, and return in the spring. They migrate in large groups of sometimes 200 or more. Except for mother-and-young families, these bats are solitary animals. While other bats seek caves, tree hollows, or other cover during hibernation, hoary bats frequently hibernate in the open, often on the side of a tree. They use their furred tail membrane as a blanket to protect them from the winter weather.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This nocturnal bat's diet is mainly moths, supplemented by occasional flies, beetles, and other insects. The Hawaiian subspecies prefers termites. An agile and fast flier, it often hunts in open areas. Predation on hoary bats is rare, but raptors and snakes are known to pose risks.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Assumed to mate in flight in late summer or early fall, with gestation delayed until winter to early spring. The young are born in late spring to early summer. Litter size is typically two altricial young per female, but may be as high as four. The young begin to fly at about one to one-and-a-half months. Young females attain sexual maturity at four months, while males mature at four to 16 months. Mating system is not known.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Assist in controlling pest insect populations. ♦

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