Lesser Horseshoe Bat, Rhinolophus hipposideros

The lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) is a European bat, and is the smaller relative of the greater horseshoe bat. The range of this bat is slightly spotty, and it occurs in many areas with warmer habitats that are up to 6,561 feet in elevation. During the winter, the highest elevation known for a nursery roost is 3,116 feet. It prefers to live in wooded areas or limestone, as well as foothill and highland areas.

The lesser horseshoe bat is one of the smallest bats in the world, with an average weight of .17 to .31 ounces and a wingspan reaching ten inches. The base of the fur is soft, and is pale grey in color. The underbelly of this bat is grey while the back is dusty brown in color. Young lesser horseshoe bats are typically all grey in color. The ears and wing membranes are grey-brown. This species is so named for its unique horseshoe shaped nose.

The lesser horseshoe bat, like other bats, resides in colonies and will use its strong feet and legs to grasp onto branches or rocks within its habitat.  When hunting, these bats will use echolocation to catch their prey. Their calls can reach an average frequency of 93 to 111 kHz. Lesser horseshoe bats are skilled fliers, and when hunting, they can be seen flying as low as sixteen feet off the ground, avoiding bushes and trees. Their diet consists of small insects that they glean from surfaces, and they prefer moths, flies, and spiders.

Mating season for the lesser horseshoe bat occurs in the fall season, and pups will be born Between June and July. Typically, only one pup is born and is weaned at seven weeks of age. It is thought that the courtship of male and female bats involves the male chasing after the female.

Often times, nursery colonies will be shared with other bat species including the greater mouse-eared bat. These colonies are comprised of two through twenty males, and can include up to one hundred females. The lesser horseshoe bat does hibernate during cold months, using mines, caves, old buildings, and even cellars as shelter from the cold.

The lesser horse shoe bat populations are declining due to many factors that include roost destruction and the loss of foraging habitats. Insecticides play a role in the decline as well, as many of the insect species the bat eats are poisoned by farmers. The lesser horseshoe bat has a conservation status of “Least Concern”.

Image Caption: Rhinolophus hipposideros. Credit: Lylambda/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)