Bats are mammals. This means that they are covered in fur, they have warm blood, they give birth (rather than laying eggs) and they suckle their babies with milk. There are over 1,000 species of bat worldwide, all in the Order Chiroptera. The greatest diversity of bat species is found in warm equatorial areas where there are fruit-, fish-, insect-, pollen- and even frog-eating types. In Ireland we have nine species confirmed as residents. All of the Irish bat species consume only insects belong to two Families – the Vespertilionidae (with eight species) and the Rhinolophidae (with one species).
Until recently, it was thought that there were seven bat species in Ireland. The Nathusius’ pipistrelle, a relatively common species throughout the rest of Europe, was discovered breeding in Northern Ireland in 1997. It has also been recorded by detector in the Republic. Around the same time scientists in Britain investigating the pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) discovered that it was actually two different species that have since been named the common and soprano pipistrelle. Both species are found in Ireland.
In another new development for Ireland, a Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii) was discovered in County Wicklow in 2003. It is likely that the bat was a vagrant from the UK or continental Europe because no further specimens have been confirmed since 2003. This bat is very similar to the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus). An individual greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) was found in County Wexford in the winter of 2012-13. No additional specimens of this species have been located and the bat is currently considered a vagrant. This is the largest bat species that has been recorded in Ireland.
Reports of possible Noctule (Nyctalus noctula) and Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) bats could indicate that these species have undiscovered populations here, but ongoing bat work suggests that this is unlikely, unless the noctule begins to spread into Ireland from the UK or continental Europe with climate change. Bat identification is quite difficult, so if you find a dead bat, please contact us.