The Greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) is rare in Britain, confined to central England and Wales. It is one of our largest bat species, the size of a small pear. Horseshoe bats possess a distinctive horseshoe-shaped noseleaf.
Greater horseshoe bats have an almost constant frequency call of about 82kHz. On a bat detector a series of continuous warbles can be heard.
Greater horseshoes bats were originally cave dwellers, but few now use caves in summer – most breeding females use buildings, choosing sites with large entrance holes with access to open roof spaces warmed by the sun. Such sites are normally in larger, older houses, churches and barns. Maternity colonies can be noisy, with continuous chattering, chirping and scolding calls. In winter they use caves, disused mines, cellars and tunnels as hibernation sites. The bats will sometimes form clusters in winter sites, although adult females are more solitary. When roosting they hang free with the wings more or less enfolding their body.
Greater horseshoe bats often behave like flycatchers, ‘watching’ from a regular perch and flying out to take passing insects. Large prey is taken to a regular feeding perch. Greater horseshoe bats feed mainly by low flying hunting catching insects in flight or occasionally from the ground. They feed on chafers, dung beetles, noctuid moths, craneflies and caddis flies.
The fur colour of the adults is a buff-brown while the juveniles have a greyish fur colour. Its head and body length is 57mm - 71mm and the wingspan is 350mm-400mm. It weighs between 17g – 34g.
Female greater horseshoe bats are not usually sexually mature until their third year and one known female did not breed until its tenth year. They may not breed every year. Mating occurs mainly during the autumn, but can take place in late winter or even spring. The young are born in mid-July. Greater horseshoe bats have been known to live for up to 30 years.
In Britain all bat species and their roosts are legally protected, by both domestic and international legislation.
To find out more about bats and how you can help these amazing but vulnerable animals, visit the Bat Conservation Trust’s website where you can become a member and discover the many ways you can get involved to do your bit for bats! The National Bat Helpline can be reached on 0845 1300 228.