Gotham’s Little Brown Bats

Flora and Fauna Fridays

A weekly entry about the life of our estuary and watershed.

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Little Brown Bat. Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program.

by Erik Baard

A single Little Brown Bat, which is New York City’s most common bat species, eats up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour. That might not be the stuff of comic books, but in our book that makes each one a true hero of Gotham.

These highly intelligent and sociable mammals protect human health and well-being by removing these disease-spreading insects and agricultural pests. Little Brown Bats rarely have rabies and they’re so unobtrusive that many New Yorkers don’t realize that so many live among us. Two terrific places to see them are the Conservatory Water (aka the model boat pond) in Central Park and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. They love to live near water. You won’t hear the high pitched echolocation used by bats to locate their prey, but you might catch some squeaks and clicks as they pass overhead.

Sadly, a fungal disease called white nose syndrome has killed millions of these marvelous creatures. In the Eastern U.S., 94% of Little Brown Bats died over the past few years. Other bat species have been devastated too. HarborLAB is building bat boxes for donation to waterfront parks and natural preserves throughout NYC to help this species replenish itself. The boxes are simple to make. The interior is slotted to create the narrow nooks bats enjoy. The wood is scraped inside to create grooves for the bats to grip when sleeping upside down. We paint them a medium shade and face them south to absorb heat. Little Brown Bats both migrate and hibernate, with males and females sleeping together when food is scarce. The sexes separate in warmer months when insects are plentiful, though they still sleep quite a bit — almost 20 hours a day.

batbox

 

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