Western barbastelle

Barbastella barbastellus

SUBFAMILY

Vespertilioninae

TAXONOMY

Barbastella barbastellus (Schreber, 1774), Burgundy, France. Two subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Barbastelle d'Europe, barbastelle commune; German: Mopsfledermaus; Spanish: Murcielago de bosque.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length ranges 1.8-2.4 in (4.5-6.0 cm), wingspan 9.4-11.8 in (24-30 cm), and forearm length about 1.2-1.8 in (3.1-4.5 cm). Adults weigh from 0.2 to 0.42 oz (6-12 g). A small-to medium-sized bat with black, notched ears that are about as big as its head and are connected at the base across the forehead. The head and back are covered with light-tipped blackish fur. Ventral fur is a bit lighter in color. The dental formula is (I2/3 C1/1 P2/2 M3/3) X 2 = 34.

DISTRIBUTION

Found in scattered pockets throughout much of central and northern Europe.

HABITAT

Forests often near water, roosting in trees or human buildings, and hibernating in tree hollows and caves.

BEHAVIOR

This bat is quite rare and its behavior is little known. Scattered reports, however, indicate that the western barbastelle hibernates from fall to spring, but frequently awakens to fly outside of its hibernaculum. During the summer, they roost alone or in small maternity colonies typically under bark, in slight hollows in trees, or in tree stumps, but they will also crawl into tight crevices in buildings. From one to about six individuals usually share a given roost, but during the breeding season barbastelles apparently congregate in fairly large numbers. Individuals are also known to migrate up to 60 mi (100 km).

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet is mainly moths and other flying insects taken while on the wing, but also includes insects and other small arthropods plucked off plants. It appears to become active earlier than most vespertilionids, sometimes emerging from its roost before sunset.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Little known, but reported to mate in autumn, with one young born in early summer, and weaning occurring about a month-and-a-half later. Thought to be promiscuous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Helps to control insect populations. ♦

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