Yellow-winged Bat, Lavia frons

The yellow-winged bat (Lavia frons) is a species of false vampire bat. It can be found in Africa, and its range consists of much of mid-Africa including Benin, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Zambia. It will roost in many habitats at elevations less than 6,561 feet. It prefers to roost near bodies of water in acacia trees and thorn bushes, but it may be seen roosting in buildings or tree hollows. It will have two roosts that it will use throughout the day, one for sleeping (the primary) and one for resting (the peripheral) between flights and especially on hot days.

The yellow-winged bat can reach an average body length of up to 3.1 inches, and can weigh between .98 and 1.2 ounces. Typically, females are larger than males and the average wingspan for an adult bat can reach a length of 14.1 inches. As its name implies, the wings are usually yellow in color, but may have red hues. The fur, which does not grow on most of the membranes, or wings, is usually pale grey or pearl gray in color, and males may have green hues on their hind body and underbelly.

The ears of the yellow-winged bat are long and pointed and the nose is also elongated, coming to a dull point at the end, where a noseleaf is located. Males have glands on their lower backs which secrete a yellow matter, and females have two extra teats near the anus that their young will latch onto. Although the interfemoral membrane (or area of the wings between the legs) of this bat is enhanced, it lacks an external tail.

The diet of the yellow-winged bat consists of insects, unlike its other false vampire bat counterparts who feed on vertebrates. They will eat many different kinds of insects, including both hard and soft bodied species, as well as scarab beetles, termites, moths, butterflies, and even flies. Instead of catching prey in midair, these bats will roost in wait, waiting for an insect to pass by. Once they have spotted the prey, the bats will then attack.

Yellow-winged bats are monogamous during breeding season, finding and making a pair that will form its own foraging territory. Either the male or female will stay alert during the day, and is able to turn its head around 225 degrees in order to keep a vigilant look out. In the mornings and the evenings, male bats will fly to their peripheral roosts in order to keep intruders away. During the day, both males and females will separate, returning to the primary roost in the evening to interact. This process will occur between the months of May to June, when it is rainy and food is abundant. Communication between bats usually occurs during mating, aggressive moments, and between mother and pup.

Female yellow-winged bats have a pregnancy that lasts approximately three months, after which one pup is born. The exact timing of birth varies from region to region. In Zambia, the bats will give birth at the end of the dry season in October, while in areas of Kenya the bats will give birth at the beginning of the rainy season in April. In the first weeks of the pup’s life, it will spend its time latched to its mother, but will soon grow to roost on its own and begin to fly. At around fifty-five days, the pups are weaned.

Little is known about the yellow-winged bat’s exact populations, or about how humans can affect their numbers. It is thought that, although the bat is not very common, it is not particularly vulnerable to human actions. Predators of this bat may include common kestrels, bat hawks, Mambas, and night tree vipers. The IUCN has given the yellow-winged bat a conservation status of “least Concern”.

Image Caption: Picture taken of a yellow-winged bat (Lavia frons) in Tanzania. The bat was hanging inside a building. Credit: Dries Sagaert/Wikipedia

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