The Long-Tailed Bat

WuHoo Colourful Fact Sheets LongTailedBat 190903

Long-tailed bats used to be common throughout New Zealand in the 1800s, although by 1900-1930 they were becoming scarce in many districts. Ever wondered how to spot one or how to be a bat ambassador? 

Download: Colourful Facts Long-Tailed Bat.pdf


Bats are the only native land mammals in all of New Zealand and they live right here in South Canterbury. 

Long-tailed bats/ pekapeka are critically endangered. They have the highest threat status of 'Nationally Critical', and the population is in long-term decline. Bats are tricky to spot but they could be your neighbours. They often live near rivers but can be found in parks, reserves, paddocks and even gardens!

  • 200 to 300 bats are in the local area and are only bats on the east coast of the South Island.
  • $2 coin is about the same weight as a long tailed bat.
  • 60km per hour is the incredible speed a bat can fly.
  • 1 night is all bats will spend in a roosting tree before they search out a new home the next night.
  • 21 years is the age of our longest-lived bats.
  • 600 insects can be consumed by a little 18g long tailed bat each day.


Why Bats Matter

Bats play an important role in the environment. Some plants depend partly or wholly on bats to pollinate their flowers or spread their seeds, while other bats also help control pests by eating insects. Changes to bat populations can indicate changes in biodiversity.  Bats might suffer when there are problems with insect populations (because our bats feed on insects) or when habitats are destroyed or poorly managed.


How to Spy a Bat

It is difficult to catch a glimpse of a long-tailed bat because they only come out at night on warm summer evenings and are very small. The best hope is to go to an area where there are good numbers of bats like Raincliff Forest, Kakahu Bush, or Pleasant Point golf course and scan the top edge of the trees just as the light leaves the sky.


Bat Characteristics

APPEARANCE: Dark brown fur. Limbs and membranes virtually hairless. Small, weighing 8-14g with a wingspan of about 25cm.

DIET: Feed on flying insects like moths, beetles, mayflies and midges.

BREEDING: Females give birth to a pup a year and carry juveniles during feeding flights until they are adolescents at around 4-6 weeks.

BEHAVIOUR: Use echolocation to find food and other objects while flying. Rest by day and feed by night. Roost in small cavities in old, or large trees. Hang upside down and hold on with claws. Social animals, with sometimes between 10 to 50 bats roosting and feeding together. Can fly long distances and may have large home ranges. Regularly move between forest fragments to feed and roost. During the breeding season, may separate into male and female colonies.

THREATS: Habitat loss (loss of tree’s and disconnection between forest fragments). Competition for roosting sites from possums and rats. Predation by feral cats, stoats and rats.


Bat Superpowers

  • Bats actually have good daylight eyesight but can’t see at night so they use sonar to ‘see’ their surroundings.
  • Bats are the only mammals capable of continued flight.
  • Are able to fly up to 30km to find food and a place to stay for the night (that’s almost Timaru to Geraldine).
  • The young begin flying when they are only four or five weeks old.

WuHoo Challenge

  • Colour in the sheet of the Long-tailed Bat. Can you see their prey?
  • Go batty and search for protected trees at the Talbot Forest, Geraldine

Be a bat ambassador

  • Reduce pesticides. Promote natural bat habitat. Protect water quality. Put up a bat house. Be a citizen scientist. Avoid disturbing bats. Report injured bats to DOC.
  • Avoid a CATastrophe by bringing your cat in half an hour before sunset so bats can emerge undisturbed. If you find it difficult to keep your cat in at night throughout the summer, do try to do it at least from mid October until the end of December. This is when bats are rearing their young.

LEARN MORE: The South Canterbury Museum. The Department of Conservation (DOC) Facebook/Pekapeka Protection Project - These are also the source for Wuhoo Timaru - Colourful Facts - The Long Tailed Bat. © WuHooTimaru 2019