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Wild Things - Microbats

Wild Things - Microbats
As the name suggest microbats are small bats ranging from about four to ten centimetres in length. The smallest microbats weigh less than a 10 cent coin and can fit in the palm of your hand. There are some 86 species of microbats across Australia, (only four of our bat species are fruit bats) making up almost a quarter of Australia's mammals, 35 species of microbat are currently listed as threatened. About twenty species of microbat call Sydney home, making them the most common and diverse group of mammals still surviving in our city.

What do microbats need to survive and where do they live? While some microbats like the infamous vampire bats of South America suck blood, Australia's microbats mostly eat insects making them important local pest controllers. As well as an abundant supply of insects, microbats need a clean source of water to drink and appropriate roosting habitat. Depending on the microbat, suitable roosting habitat may be a tree hollow, cave, tunnel, bridge or culvert, the crevice underneath some bark or the eaves on a building.

While some species of microbat like Gould's Wattled Bat are found all across Sydney (you might see them hunting insects around the lights at the SCG during a night game of AFL), the most diversity of microbat species are found in Sydney's western suburbs. It seems the secret lies in the rich clay soils of the Cumberland Plain. The rich soils support a greater variety of plants that in turn support an abundance of insects that in turn support an abundance and diversity microbat species. Conversely, nearby national parks that you would think would be great habitat, tend to be located on poorer sandy soils and don't have a great variety of insects or microbats.

Threats to all bats

  • Loss of bushland
  • Weed invasion
  • Roost disturbance
  • Changed fire regimes
  • Predators such as cats, rats and possums
  • Lights; some bats can be sensitive to bright lighting at night
  • Other animals that nest in tree hollows and potentially out-compete bats for roost sites such as Lorikeets, Indian Mynahs and feral honey bees
  • Noise; some bats avoid crossing roads and noisy areas
  • Pollution of waterways from urban or agricultural runoff

How can you help microbats?

  • Plant a variety of native plants in your garden to encourage insects
  • Don't use insecticides
  • Put up a bat nest box

You can get a free bat box from Council or make your own.

More information about bats and bat boxes.

Photographs courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons, Doug Beckers and Lock the Gate Alliance

Microbats: The insect terminators  Australasian Bat Society Sydney Bats: Microbats in the Sydney region Australian Museum: Australian Bats

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