We are very lucky in Somerset to have found 16 of the 17 breeding species of UK bats. This is approx one third of all the UK Mammal species.
Common Bat Species in Somerset
Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
Pipistrelles are the commonest British bats, weighing around 5 grams (same as a 20p piece). A single pipistrelle can eat 3,000 tiny insects in just one night! They have an erratic flight pattern with lots of twists and turns and downward swoops.
Common throughout Somerset, often roosting in modern houses.
Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)
Similar to common pipistrelle but distinguished by its higher frequency echolocation call.
Not as frequent as Common Pips, but frequently found in damp Somerset woodland, or near water. Good places to see them are the Westhay reserve and Chard Reservoir
Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)
This bat’s huge ears provide exceptionally sensitive hearing – it can even hear a ladybird walking on a leaf! Brown long-eared bats usually fly close to trees. Their flight is slow and hovering. Their long distinctive ears can sometimes be seen in flight. Juveniles often have grey fur.
Fairly common throughout Somerset, it roosts in open lofts in older buildings or barns.
Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii)
Known as the ‘water bat’, Daubenton’s bats fly very low over water, skimming the surface to catch insects with their large feet or tail. If you look closely you can see their white bellies.
Common throughout Somerset in wet woodlands or near water. Good places to see them are the Bishops Palace moat in Wells, Chard Reservoir or on the River Tone in Taunton.
Noctule (Nyctalus noctula)
This bat has long narrow wings and flies in a straight line with steep dives, very high and fast above the tree tops. It’s our biggest bat, but it’s still smaller than the palm of your hand!
A woodland bat, often roosting in hollow trees or bat boxes.
Uncommon Bat Species in Somerset
Serotine (Eptesicus serotinus)
The Serotine has broad wings and a leisurely flapping flight.
Declining in Somerset, now less frequently seen. Feeds over Cattle grazed pasture. Likes to roost in Victorian houses with Clay tile roofs and deep barge boards.
Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri)
Its broad wings enable it to fly slowly and prey on a wide variety of insects, even snatching spiders from their webs!
A woodland bat, regularly seen in the Mendips. Roosts in bat boxes and some of our bat houses.
Lesser Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)
Hangs upside down, able to wrap its wings completely around its body while at rest, differing from the greater horseshoe bat whose face can usually be seen. Adults are the size of a hanging plum.
A species locally common in the Mendips, uncommon elsewhere. Prefers to roost in older buildings and stone outbuildings.
Greater Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)
Horseshoe bats possess a distinctive horseshoe-shaped noseleaf. Only found in the southwest of England and southwest Wales. Also hangs upside down, with wings wrapped around its body. The adults are the size of a hanging pear.
Nationally endangered, with only approx. 5-6000 individuals. Around 12% of the national breeding colony are roosting in the Mendips, and hibernating in local caves.
Whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus)
Slightly smaller than Brandt’s bat but shares the same shaggy fur.
Small roosts in older cottages, we have little information on Somerset roosts
Rare Bat Species in Somerset
Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii)
Very similar to the whiskered bat, only being separated as distinct species in 1970. Has been recorded in Somerset, but limited knowledge of their breeding status so far.
Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus)
A rare and distinctive bat with a pug-like face and large, wide ears.
We have confirmed it as breeding in Somerset’s ancient woodland.
Grey long-eared bat (Plecotus austriacus)
This bat is generally a little larger than the brown long-eared bat and has a dark face. A back from the brink target species.
Somerset may be a hotspot for them, but we have very few confirmed records.
Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri)
Also known as the ‘hairy-armed bat’, it’s similar to the noctule but smaller with longer fur.
We have very little information, however recently discovered a roost in the centre of Taunton.
Nathusius’ pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii)
A previous migrant species, it has only been classed as a resident species since 1997. A few have been recorded in flight, but little information on breeding in Somerset. Has been found breeding north of the Mendips
Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii)
One of our rarest bats, found in parts of southern England and southeast Wales.
We recorded these during the BCT Bechstein’s survey, with possible breeding colonies towards the Dorset border.
UK resident Species not found (yet) in Somerset
Alcathoe bat (Myotis alcathoe)
The latest addition to the UK bat family, only being confirmed as a resident species in 2010 due to its similarity to the whiskered and Brandt’s bat species.
The group did trapping surveys in the mid-2010’s looking for Alcathoe, but have not found any evidence in Somerset yet. However, they have been found recently just over the northern border into Wiltshire.
- Link to BCT: Listen to Alcathoe
Vagrant species and occasional visitors
Greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis)
This bat was officially declared extinct in 1990, but a solitary individual has been hibernating in southern England since 2002. Has never been seen in Somerset.