Greater Horseshoe Bat, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

The greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) can be found in Japan, Africa, Europe, China, South Asia, Korea, and Australia. It prefers a habitat in warm regions, with open scrub and trees, human settlements, and bodies of water like ponds. It will also inhabit older orchards, glades within woodlands, and permanent pastures, among other areas. Many of its roosts occur in houses in the northern areas of its range and in caves in the southern areas of its range. These bats travel to different roosts in the summer and winter, always returning the same roosts for each season.

The greater horseshoe bat can reach an average body length of up to 2.7 inches, with a wingspan that can reach between 1.3 and 1.6 inches. This species typically has soft fur, with a greyish white underbelly and greyish brown back fur. Young greater horseshoe bats are usually darker grey in color. It has a noseleaf that aids in echolocation when hunting insects.

Mating season for the greater horseshoe bat occurs between the fall and spring. Females roost together in groups of up to two hundred individuals, typically in abandoned buildings, mines, and caves. In the months of June and July, one young is born per female. Young greater horseshoe bats grow quickly, and are weaned at seven to eight weeks of age in August.

The diet of the greater horseshoe bat consists of moths and beetles. The diet of nursing females depends heavily on dung beetles, and before hibernation in the winter, every bat of this species will consume the cranefly in order to store fat. At dusk, the bats leave and will fly at different altitudes depending on the location in which they live. Flight is typically slow and erratic, but the greater horseshow bat is able to glean insects off surfaces during flight.

The greater horseshoe bat, although not threatened throughout its range, is not often seen in Britain and has an extremely limited range there. It is so rare that most of its roosting sites can be named, including the breeding sites at Brockley Hall Stables located near Bristol and in the Forest of dean at Littledean Hall. Its winter roosting sites include Banwell Caves, Chilmark Quarries in Wiltshire, and Compton Martin Ochre Mine. There are currently 369 roosting sites in Britain and only 35 maternity colonies.

The major causes of the bats decline in this area of its range include habitat loss and dying from agricultural pesticides. The pesticides affect the insects that this bat eats, therefore forcing it to seek food outside of its normal feeding areas. The greater horseshoe bat, as a species, appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern”.

Image Caption: Grand Rhinolophe, Dordogne, 24. Credit: Marie Jullion/Wikipedia  (CC BY-SA 3.0)