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 which belong to the bat Sub-order Microchiroptera. All of the Irish bat species consume only insects and the nine residents 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 still unknown, following this first discovery, whether the bat was a vagrant from the UK or Europe, or a resident. No further specimens have been confirmed since 2003. This bat is very similar to the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus) so it is possible that it has been mistaken for whiskered bats in the past. This brings to 9 the number of bat species confirmed resident in Ireland, with one additional species (Brandt's) possibly resident but unconfirmed.
Reports of possible Noctule (Nyctalus noctula) and Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) bats could indicate that these species have undiscovered populations here, but ongoing bat work by Bat Conservation Ireland and the Centre for Irish Bat Research 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.