One of the largest bats in Europe, the European free-tailed bat has large, forward-pointing ears that curl in at the edges and a long, wrinkled muzzle (2)(3). It possesses a long tail which, unlike many other bats, extends well beyond the flight membrane(2). The fur is long, particularly on the throat, and is typically slate-grey on the upperparts and paler on the underparts (2). The wings are also greyish-brown to black in colour and are very long and narrow (2)(3), giving it great agility and the ability to fly long distances in an energy efficient way (4).
A nocturnal species (3), the European free-tailed bat emerges from its roost at night to feed primarily on flying insects, such as moths (1). Flying high and fast (3), it uses low frequency echolocation calls to detect its prey (5). The heavily-built European free-tailed bat is capable of reaching speeds of over 50 km/h and possesses the stamina to hunt for food for up to ten hours without a resting period (6). It is not clear whether this species, like many other bats, hibernates during winter (5).
The European free-tailed bat is typically found roosting in colonies containing between 5 and 50 individuals (5); although colonies of up to 400 individuals have also been recorded (1). Female European free-tailed bats typically give birth to a single young each year, in the summer months. It is thought to have a life span of over ten years (3).
This species favours open habitats, such as grasslands and shrublands, from sea level up to 2,300 metres. It roosts in fissures and hollows in rocky outcrops, quarries and sea cliffs. It is fairly common in some urban areas and sometimes roosts in artificial structures such as bridges, water towers, cathedrals and other tall buildings (1)(5).
The European free-tailed bat is negatively affected by the disturbance and loss of roosting site in buildings, and by the use of pesticides. Pesticide use has potentially devastating effects on bats, by causing severe declines in insect prey abundance and contaminating food with possibly fatal toxins (7). There is also a potential threat to the species from wind farms, and deforestation is affecting the species in some parts of its range. However, none of these threats are considered to pose a significant risk to the species at present (1).
The European free-tailed bat is protected by national legislation in a number of countries (1), and should receive additional protection through its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species, which was put in place to conserve migratory species throughout their range (8). It is also protected under the Eurobats Agreement, which aims to protect all 45 species of bats identified in Europe (9). Finally, this species also occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range (1).
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Detecting objects by reflected sound. Used by bats and odontocete cetaceans (toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises) for orientation and to detect and locate prey.
The flight membrane, also known as the patagium, is the skin forming the surface of the wing. It extends between the limbs and the body of the bat.
Hibernation is a winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer.
Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
Burton, J.A. (1991) Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe. Kingfisher Books, London.
Bayefsky-Anand, S., Skowronski, M.D., Fenton, M.B., Korine, C. and Holderied, M.W. (2008) Variations in the echolocation calls of the European free-tailed bat. Journal of Zoology, 275: 115-123.
Mitchell-Jones, A.J., Amori, G., Bogdanowicz, W., Kryštufek, B., Reijnders, P.J. H., Spitzenberger, F., Stubbe, M., Thissen, J.B.M. Vohralík, V. and Zima, J. (1999) The Atlas of European Mammals. Academic Press, London.
Marques, J.T., Rainho, A., Carapuco, M., Oliveria, P. and Palmeirim, J.M. (2004) Foraging behaviour and habitat use of the European free-tailed bat Tadarida teniotis. Acta Chiropterologica, 6(1): 99-110.
Morris, P. (1993) A Red Data Book for British Mammals. Mammal Society, Bristol.
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