The hoary bat is the largest bat in Will County, weighing 1.2 ounces with a wingspan of up to 16 inches. The name “hoary” describes the whitened, frosted look of this bat’s fur. They are the most widespread of all bats, found in the United States, Canada and Central and South America. They are also the only native land mammal in Hawaii.
Not only are hoary bats the largest bats in our area, but they also stand out in a few other ways from most of the bats that visit Will County.
Our local bats most often give birth to one or sometimes two pups. The hoary bat usually has three or four and sometimes even five little pups! Like all mammals, they nurse their young. The young pups are usually independent flyers after about 30 days.
Social vs. solitary
Most of our bats hang out in maternal colonies that consist of many mothers and pups cuddled together. The males are solitary or live in bachelor colonies nearby. For hoary bats, both males and females are most often solitary except when taking care of their babies or migrating together. Sometimes, hoary bats are even found migrating with birds.
A place called home
Most of our local bat species live in caves, mines, buildings, bridges and other human-built structures and sometimes trees. Hoary bats are almost exclusively tree dwellers. They can hang upside down on a branch from one foot, with their wings tucked in. They could be hiding in plain sight, camouflaged like a little leaf hanging from the branches amongst the other foliage.
Usually, our local bats are crepuscular. Crepuscular means most active at twilight. That means, for most bats, their favorite time to come out and forage is at dusk or dawn. Forage means to search for food. The hoary bat is nocturnal, however. They wait three to five hours after sunset to come out and feast on all the tasty insects flying around or hanging out high up on the leaves of the trees.
Words to know
Crepuscular: Active at twilight.
Forage: To search for food.
They are fast flyers but cannot maneuver very well. Because of this, they fly high above the forest’s canopy or in open spaces. When the hoary bat first emerges in the evening, it may take a foraging flight of up to 24 miles roundtrip. Then they rest a bit and take several shorter foraging trips, always making their final return before sunrise.
Like all our local bat species, the hoary bat is beneficial because of the number of pesky insects they consume. Some hoary bats live in Will County all summer long, and some migrate through in the fall and spring as they head to their winter and summer homes. Keep your eyes to the sky this fall and maybe you will get to see some of these mammalian flyers passing by!
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