Grey long-eared (Plecotus austriacus) bats are very rare medium-sized bats found only in a few places in southern England. They are generally longer than the Brown long-eared bats.
The echolocation pulses produced by these bats are very quiet - this is thought to help with finding insects on foliage as well as to avoid warning moths of the presence of the bat.
Relatively little is known about the habitat use of the grey long-eared bat, however long-eared bats are most often found in older houses with large open roof voids which allow the bats to fly around in the roof. As well as using the roof void, the bats will tuck themselves away behind rafters, so they may not always be seen. A favourite roosting place is on or above the ridge beam of the roof. In winter, long-eared bats may still be found in roofs in small numbers and some are seen in underground sites such as caves, mines and cellars
Recent radio-tracking studies show that they tend to forage in open spaces over meadows, grasslands, gardens and near forest edges, up to 6 km away from the roost. Grey long-eared bats are very skilful fliers that feed on moths, Diptera (mainly Tipulids – crane flies) and small beetles.
A grey long-eared bat’s ears are nearly as long as the body, but are not always obvious; when at rest they curl their ears back like rams horns, or tuck them away completely under their wings leaving only the pointed inner lobe of the ear (the tragus) visible. These bats are grey and have a darker face with a blackish mask. The head and body length is 41mm - 58mm and the wingspan is 255mm – 300mm. It weighs between 7g – 12g.
As with other species, long-eared breeding colonies gather in roosts during April and May. Generally numbers are quite low, averaging about 20 adults, but colonies of up to 100 are known. Males are often found in these roosts and are obviously tolerated by the females. The single baby is born in the end of June/ beginning of July and is able to fly by August.
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.