Soprano Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) are the commonest and most widespread of all British bat species. There are two very similar species, soprano pipistrelle and the common pipistrelle. Pipistrelles are the bats that you are most likely to see.
The call of the Soprano Pipistrelle sounds like a series of clicks turning into ‘wetter’ slaps with the deepest sounding slap being heard at about 55kHz. The Common Pipstrelle at about 45kHz.
Summer roosts of both common and soprano pipistrelles are usually found in crevices around the outside of often newer buildings, such as behind hanging tiles, soffit and barge or eaves boarding, between roofing felt and roof tiles or in cavity walls. However, the soprano pipistrelle also roosts in tree holes and crevices, and also in bat boxes. Summer roosts support colonies of an average size of 200 bats, but they can be even larger with numbers reaching several hundred to over a thousand bats. In winter soprano pipistrelles are found singly or in small numbers in crevices of buildings and trees, and also in bat boxes.
Soprano pipistrelles usually feed in wetland habitats, for example over lakes and rivers, and also around woodland edge, tree lines or hedgerows, and in suburban gardens and parks. They generally emerge from their roost around 20 minutes after sunset and fly 2-10m above ground level searching for their insect prey, which they catch and eat on the wing by ‘aerial hawking’. They appear fast and jerky in flight as they dodge about pursuing small insects which the bats catch and eat on the wing. A single pipistrelle can consume up to 3,000 insects in one night! Sopranos feed mainly on small flies, particularly midges and mosquitoes that are associated with water.
The soprano pipistrelle has a fur colour of medium to dark brown and its face and around the eyes is usually pink in colour. The head and body length is 35mm - 45mm and the wingspan 190mm - 230mm. The soprano weighs 3g - 8g.
Male bats usually roost singly or in small groups through the summer months. During the main mating period from July to early September, males defend individual territories as mating roosts, attracting females by making repeated ‘songflights’ around their roost and singing social calls. During the summer, females form maternity colonies where they give birth to a single young in June or early July. For three or four weeks the young are fed solely on their mother’s milk. After about four weeks the young are able to fly and at six weeks they are able to forage for themselves.
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.