Photo Credit: Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International
Above phots by: Keith Hudson
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lasiurus borealis
OTHER NAMES: Red Bat, Tree Bat.
STATUS: Found statewide and common. Lowest Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: Eastern red bats are medium-sized, forest-dwelling bats. As with many members of the genus Lasiurus, red bats are heavily furred. Fur covers most of the body, including most of the wings and tail. Individuals may exhibit considerable variation in pelage color, ranging from bright orange-red, to orange-brown, to light brown. Many of the hairs are tipped with white. Light brown individuals are often confused with the closely related Seminole bat, Lasiurus seminolus; however, Seminole bats are a much darker mahogany-brown. Female red rats usually are much paler than males. Both sexes have a distinctive, white-furred, “collar” and white patch of fur located near the thumb. The wingspan of red bats is 11-13 inches and they weigh 0.3-0.5 ounces. Their ears are short and rounded. With their heavy red fur, frosting, and white collar, eastern red bats generally are regarded as one of the most beautiful bats in Alabama.
DISTRIBUTION: Eastern red bats occur from southern Canada southward through most of the eastern continental United States (except extreme south Florida) and into northeastern Mexico. Red Bats are one of the most common bats in Alabama.
HABITAT: Red bats are forest-dwelling bats and inhabit deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woodlands. They forage along forest edges, and flyway corridors of streams and woods roads. They roost in the foliage of trees, often hanging by one foot, and look, superficially, like dead leaves. Caves, buildings, and artificial bat houses are rarely used as roost sites. In southern portions of their range, they sometimes roost in clumps of Spanish moss. In colder regions, they may hibernate in hollow trees and leaf litter. Red bats are common in forested urban areas where they regularly feed around streetlights.
FEEDING HABITS: They are insectivorous, eating a wide variety of night-flying insects including moths, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, and cicadas. Insects may be caught in the wing or tail membrane during flight and eaten “on the wing.”
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Red bats roost and sleep during the day and are active at night; however, it is not uncommon to see them flying early in the afternoon during summer and in daylight on warm winter days. They are solitary when roosting, but small groups of individuals often forage together. Red bats mate in the fall, often during flight, but embryo implantation is delayed until spring. One to four (usually three) young are born during early summer. Females carry their young while flying. Red bats in colder portions of their range migrate south in the autumn.
As with most wild mammals, the eastern red bat can and does contract and transmit rabies. Though the incidence of rabies in bats is very low, any bat that appears sick or cannot fly should be avoided. The eastern red bat is a very beneficial species, and, like all of Alabama’s bats, are a natural means of insect control.
AUTHOR: M. Keith Hudson, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.