Bats (order, Chiroptera) are the only mammals that can truly fly (flying squirrels, for example, use their flight membranes to glide from heights); flight is possible by flapping of the ‘wings’ which are formed from a thin skin or membrane known as the ‘patagium’ which is stretched across elongated digits (fingers).
There are more than a thousand 1000 species of bats in the world and 53 species of European bats. The majority of these are insect-eating and nocturnal; using their echolocation system to identify and capture flies and moths at night, and roosting in hedges, caves and buildings during the day. They typically hibernate from November to April.
The most common species seen in the Netherlands and in many European countries is the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). With a length of 3-5 cm and weighing less than 8 grams, this is the smallest species of European bat and has dark brown wings and a golden brown to rusty-colored fur.
Other species commonly found in Northern Europe include the serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) which is one of the largest of the European bats at 8 cm long and weighing up to 35 grams. It has dark brown wings and a pale brown to yellow belly.
Despite enjoying a protected status in most of Europe, in the last decades, many species of bats have experienced a decline in their numbers which is though to be due to the disturbance of their habitats. Tips on how to create and encourage bat roosts in buildings are available here.
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