Winter has arrived and we need to look out for microbats that may be in your woodpile or seeking shelter around your sheds or homes. Here are some neat facts about our smallest bats.
Bats are mammals and Australia has over 70 species of microbats, some are critically endangered, they roost in tree hollows, under bark, in dead trees and some species roost in caves. Microbats navigate and catch their prey by echolocation although they can see, they eat as much as 3/4 of their body weight a night in insects [especially mozzies], they are only seen at night and are acrobatic flyers.
Without our protected microbats we would have lots more insects. We do not have Vampire bats in Australia.
Thanks to Lily who is one of our carers, for the following story.
Frisk was a female Broad-nosed bat who was found in the bottom of a bucket at a local Armidale school in early November 2021. She was cold, wet, and underweight, and we don't know how long she'd been stuck in the bucket for. I took her home and did all the caring things for her: weighed and measured her, administered fluids and glucose, warmed her up, fed her.
She was a quiet little bat, but a very messy eater, and each night after dinner she'd lie on her back in my hand while I cleaned her. I'd admire her lovely big belly full of food and tell her what a good girl she was for eating so much. In a little over a week she had put on weight and was looking better so it was decided that she could be released once the weather cleared up (microbats should be released on clear nights with no rain or strong wind). Until then I kept feeding her, thrilled with the weight she continued to put on.
Unfortunately we were in a long rainy patch, and before I got a chance to release her something happened. I got her out to feed one night and noticed something odd near her stomach. Was it...a penis? How had I not noticed that she was a he? No, it was...a tiny leg and foot. How had I not noticed that she had an extra back leg?
Finally I realised that she'd had a baby! This possibility was so far from my mind that it was not the first or even second thought I had when I saw the leg! He was red and furless with closed eyes, and was slightly larger than a baked bean. I couldn't believe something so fragile-looking could exist.
Naturally I panicked! It is not ideal to have a mother and baby microbat in care as mother microbats only carry the babies around with them for a couple of weeks before they become too big, then they stash them in a roost and leave them while they go off to feed at night, returning periodically to nurse the baby, then roost with them during the day.
Despite the weather still being questionable, the best thing for Frisk was to get her and her baby released as soon as possible. So the next night and for several nights afterwards I was back at the location she was found, holding her and her baby aloft, trying to get her to fly off.
She refused. Nothing I did would make her fly. And my efforts to do so were beginning to stress her and her baby. She was a stubborn bat. Or maybe she'd just decided that she liked a warm bed, ready meals, and belly rubs after dinner! After five nights I stopped trying and resigned myself to having them both in care until the baby was flying, hunting, and ready to be released.
As anxious as it made me, it was also an exciting and rare opportunity to watch a baby microbat's progression from birth to release, with Frisk there to do all the hard work. I named the baby Chester.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.