Friday 17 May
Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula)
Noctule bat fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Noctule bat description
The noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) is one of the largest bats in Europe (7). It has long, narrow wings (2), and the short fur lies close to the body. The back is reddish-brown and develops a glossy sheen during summer. The belly is a duller, lighter brown (2). Juveniles are darker than adults, and have pale brown backs (2). The wing membranes, nose and broad triangular-shaped ears are blackish-brown (2).
- Noctule Commune.
- Murciélago Nóctulo Común, Nóctulo Mediano.
- Head-body length: 60 - 82 mm (2)
- Tail length: 41 - 60 mm (2)
- Forearm length: 47 - 58 mm (2)
- Ear length: 16 - 21 mm (2)
- Wingspan: 320 - 400 mm (2)
- 19 - 40 g (2)
Noctule bat biology
Bats are the only true flying mammals. In Britain, they are insectivorous (eat insects), and contrary to popular misconception they are not blind; many can actually see very well (6). All British bats use echolocation to orient themselves at night; they emit bursts of sound that are of such high frequencies they are beyond the human range of hearing and are therefore called 'ultrasound' (7). They then listen to and interpret the echoes bounced back from objects, including prey, around them, allowing them to build up a 'sound-picture' of their surroundings (7).
Noctule bats produce echolocation calls of frequencies between 25 and 45 kHz (5). They emerge relatively early, often when it is still light (2). They hunt for moths, beetles and other large flying insects with fast, high flight, making rapid turns and diving frequently (2).
The noctule bat migrates to the south or southwest during autumn, in order to escape the worst of the harsh winter weather, although not all individuals migrate (6). Mating takes place between August and October (2); during this time a single male defends a mating roost of 4 to 5 females against other males (2). Fertilisation is delayed until the following spring (6), as females store sperm inside their uterus (womb) during the winter hibernation (8), which occurs between October and early April (2). During early summer males and females live together in summer roosts, but females begin to gather into maternity roosts of 20 to 50 (rarely up to a few hundred) females after late May (2). During this time males live in small groups (2). In England, a single young is usually produced in June or early July; the young can fly at 4 weeks of age and reaches independence at around 7 weeks (2). Noctule bats are known to live to a maximum of 12 years of age (2).Top
Noctule bat range
Occurs throughout much of Europe including England and Wales, but the noctule bat is absent from northern Scotland, Ireland, and north Scandinavia (5). Although it has a fairly wide distribution in England and Wales, it is not a common species (7).Top
Noctule bat habitat
The noctule bat favours open habitats (7) and is found in woodland, large parks (2), wetlands, pasture land and large gardens (7). Maternity colonies occur mainly in tree-holes, summer roosts have also been found in bat boxes, hollow streetlights, and bridges. Hibernation takes place in hollow trees, crevices in rocks, and buildings (2).Top
Noctule bat status
The noctule bat is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). In Great Britain, all bats are fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) as amended, and by the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations (1994). An agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe (EUROBATS) under the auspices of the Bonn Convention, also known as the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) is in force, and all European bats are listed under Appendix II of the CMS (4).Top
Noctule bat threats
Like all bats, the noctule bat is vulnerable to a number of threats, including the loss of roost sites; hollow trees are often felled if thought unsafe or 'untidy'. Habitat change and loss, affecting the availability of insect prey and causing the fragmentation of feeding habitat is a serious problem for many bats, furthermore pesticide use has devastating effects, by causing severe declines in insect prey abundance, and contaminating food with potentially fatal toxins (4).Top
Noctule bat conservation
In Britain, bats benefit from a very comprehensive level of legal protection (4). Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure, take or sell a bat, posses a live bat or part of a bat, to intentionally (or in England and Wales, recklessly) damage, obstruct or destroy access to bat roosts. Under the Conservation Regulations it is an offence to damage or destroy breeding sites or resting places. Fines of up to £5,000 for every bat affected, and up to six months imprisonment are in place for these offences (3). Several species of bat can also benefit by bat boxes put up by the public, which can provide roosting sites.Top
Find out more
Find out more about the conservation of the noctule bat and other British bat species:
The Bat Conservation Trust: Species Information Sheet - Noctule Bat:
The Bat Conservation Trust:
The Vincent Wildlife Trust:
Amy Dunkley, The Bat Conservation Trust, London.
- A group of organisms living together, individuals in the group are not physiologically connected and may not be related, such as a colony of birds. Another meaning refers to organisms, such as bryozoans, which are composed of numerous genetically identical modules (also referred to as zooids or 'individuals'), which are produced by budding and remain physiologically connected.
- Detecting objects by reflected sound. Used for orientation and detecting and locating prey by bats and cetacea (whales and dolphins).
- 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. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is 'diapause', a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
IUCN Red List (February, 2011)
- Schober, W. and Grimmberger, E. (1987) A Guide to Bats of Britain and Europe. Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, London.
- Morris, P. (1993) A Red Data Book for British Mammals. Mammal Society, Bristol.
Macdonald, D.W. and Tattersall, F.T. (2001) Britain's Mammals - The Challenge for Conservation. The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University. Available at:
The Bat Conservation Trust: Species Information Sheet - Noctule Bat (August, 2002)
- Altringham, J.D. (1996) Bats: Biology and Behaviour. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Petit, E. and Mayer, F. (1999) Male dispersal in the noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula): where are the limits?. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 266: 1717 - 1722.
Bats and the Law - a quick guide. Bat Conservation Trust (August, 2002)
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.