19 of the Cutest Bat Species

Three small white bats with yellow ears huddle in the center of a large green leaf

Kevin Shafer / Getty Images

Bats are misunderstood creatures. The reputation they've earned through scary stories and myths doesn't match their cute, furry appearance, or the important role these prodigious bug-catchers play in ecosystems worldwide. With more than 1,400 identified species, bats are the second most diverse order of mammal, outnumbered only by rodents. Bats are traditionally divided into two broad categories, megabats and microbats, though these classifications have more to do with their behavior than their size. Microbats use echolocation to hunt live prey, while megabats generally do not echolocate and feed on fruit. Scientists have discovered species that defy this classification system, though, and it's no longer regarded as entirely accurate. In any case, bats species are wildly diverse, ranging from flying foxes with five-foot wingspans to tiny species that fit in the palm of your hand.

Here are 19 bat species that prove that these high-flying mammals are vital members of the animal kingdom, and quite photogenic to boot.

1
of 19

Egyptian Fruit Bat

A furry brown bat looks into the camera

Seregraff / Getty Images

The Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) is a large species found throughout Africa, the Middle East, and India. It's considered a megabat, a family of 197 large fruit-eating bats. With a two-foot wingspan, it's an average size megabat species. It's a highly social animal, and usually roosts in caves by the thousand. It's generally the microbats that are known as skillful sonar hunters, but the Egyptian fruit bat is the rare megabat that does use a rudimentary form of echolocation.

2
of 19

California Leaf-Nosed Bat

A leaf-nosed bat flies through a cave

Kristen Lalumiere / Flickr / Public Domain

The California leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus californicus) earns its name because of the fleshy bump, called a noseleaf, that grows above its snout. It has a wingspan of about one foot, and large ears that are greater in size than its head.

It has short, broad wings that are best-suited to acrobatics and slow speeds, rather than long-distance travel, and it does not migrate. It prefers to forage for ground-dwelling insects like crickets and beetles, which it snatches thanks to its excellent eyesight.

3
of 19

Honduran White Bat

White bats with yellow noses roost in a large leaf

Marko Konig / Getty Images

The Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba) is a highly specialized species found in Central America, and one of only six bat species with white fur. It roosts in groups of up to 15 bats in broad leaves, which it cuts with its teeth to modify into a tent shape. Its diet is special as well — it's a fruit eater that subsists mainly on a single type of fig. Due to its unique housing and dietary needs, it is especially vulnerable to deforestation, and is listed as a near-threatened species

4
of 19

Indian Flying Fox

A black and brown bat hangs from a vine
Mark Newman / Getty Images

The Indian flying fox (Pteropus medius) is one of the largest bat species, weighing up to three and a half pounds and boasting a wingspan of nearly five feet. It's found throughout the Indian subcontinent and roosts in large groups in tree canopies. It's not a picky eater, foraging for many types of fruits, as well as leaves and insects. In some regions, flying foxes are seen as pests, especially near fruit orchards where they can damage crops. However, studies largely show that their role as pollinators outweighs the economic harm they cause.

5
of 19

Big Brown Bat

A brown bat perches from a skinny branch

JasonOndreicka / Getty Images

The big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) is a common species found widely throughout North and Central America. It's a fairly large species of microbat, the family of bats that make up 70 percent of all bat species. It exhibits nearly all the behaviors bats are best known for — roosting upside down in caves and tunnels and snatching flying insects at night using echolocation. It eats a wide variety of beetles and insects, and farmers will sometimes set up bat boxes to attract them as a form of pest control. 

6
of 19

Peter's Dwarf Epauletted Fruit Bat

Dwarf epauletted fruit bat flies in the night sky

Ivan Kuzmin / Shutterstock

Peters's dwarf epauletted fruit bat (Micropteropus pusillus) is something of an oxymoron — it's classified as a megabat despite its small stature. While megabats do trend larger than microbats, the main difference between the two groups is that microbats echolocate while megabats usually do not. This dwarf species is native to Africa, where it resides in tropical forests and woodlands. Thanks to its diet of fruit and nectar, it's an important pollinator of tropical plants. 

7
of 19

Brown Long-Eared Bat

A brown bat with long ears flies in front of a black background
Yves Adams / Getty Images

The brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) is a species native to Europe and Asia with, yes, distinctive ears that are nearly as long as the rest of its body. It prefers higher altitudes, and is commonly found roosting in hollow trees in parks and forests. Despite the enormous ears, studies have found that long-eared bats tend to hunt insects by sight rather than echolocation.

8
of 19

Striped Yellow-Eared Bat

A bat with stripes on its face sits with its wings spread

Gabriel Mendes / Getty Images

The striped yellow-eared bat (Vampyriscus nymphaea) is a species of leaf-nosed bat with a unique color adaptation — white stripes across its forehead and jaw. It's found in Central and South America, from Nicaragua to Ecuador. While its nose seems singular as well, the leaf-nosed bat family is actually large and diverse, with at least 160 member species. They share the distinctive nose shape and feed on everything from insects, to fruit, to blood. They can be found across the Americas in tropical rainforests, woodlands, and deserts. 

9
of 19

Greater Horseshoe Bat

A greater horseshoe bat flies through the night sky

Marko Konig / Getty Images

The greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) is a species of bat with a distinctive U-shaped nose. It's not for cosmetic reasons; the unique shape helps to direct the ultrasound waves it produces to navigate using echolocation. It has a wide range that stretches from Europe and North Africa across Asia to Japan. It's not an endangered species, but it is protected in the United Kingdom due to locally declining numbers. 

10
of 19

Desert Long-Eared Bat

A long-eared bat is held up in front of a dark background
The desert long-eared bat makes short work of scorpions, even the venomous variety.

Charlotte Roemer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Found in arid environments from Morocco to the Middle East, the desert long-eared bat (Otonycteris hemprichii) is at home in inhospitable regions. It has an unusual appetite among bats, feeding on large prey, including the highly venomous Palestine yellow scorpion. Researchers have observed its hunting tactics, and report that it can take a toxic scorpion sting to the face and continue its meal undeterred, eventually consuming the entire scorpion, including its barb and vemon sacs.

11
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Soprano Pipistrelle

A brown bat flies with outstretched wings

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The soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) is a European species that prefers a life near rivers and wetlands. Its diet consists mainly of aquatic midges and other insects. It's closely related to the common pipistrelle, a more populous species, and the two were only categorized as different species in 1999, when researchers discovered that their echolocation calls occur at different frequencies

12
of 19

Greater False Vampire Bat

A gray bat hangs from its feet in a rocky cave

Aditya Joshi / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The greater false vampire bat (Lyroderma lyra) is a species found in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent in humid rainforests. It has a blueish tint to its gray fur, and as its name implies, is one of the larger species of vampire bats. Unlike true vampire bats, which are among the leaf-nosed species in South America, false vampire bats do not feed on blood. That name is a relic of an old misconception. Still, Lyroderma lyra does have one unique dietary choice — it's one of just three bat species known to eat other bats. 

13
of 19

Eastern Red Bat

An eastern red bat with two young offspring clings to a towel

Josh Henderson / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

The eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) is one of the most common species found in eastern North America. It's small-bodied, with reddish-brown fur, and consumes a diet of insects, including cutworm moths and other invasive pest species. While many bats only produce one pup at a time, eastern brown bats average three pups in a litter, which helps to explain its healthy population size. 

14
of 19

Kitti's Hog-Nosed Bat

A close up view of a hog-nosed bat

Sébastien J. Puechmaille / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0,

Kitti's hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) is the smallest bat species and also one of the smallest mammals. It's also known as the bumblebee bat, and is perhaps the only bat small enough to be mistaken for an insect. It has a body that measures only an inch long, and it weighs about as much as a dime. It is found only in limestone caves in Myanmar and northern Thailand, and is considered a threatened species due to habitat loss. 

15
of 19

Lesser Short-Nosed Fruit Bat

Large brown bats hang from the rafters in a wooden building

lillitve / Getty Images

Found in South and Southeast Asia, the lesser short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus brachyotis) is a small species of megabat with a foxlike face. It eats all types of aromatic fruit, and seems to prefer mangoes most of all. Like other fruit-eaters, it's an important pollinator, in this case for fruits like dates, bananas, avocados, mangoes, and peaches. Its fur is mostly brown, but can turn orange near the shoulders in breeding adults.

16
of 19

Spotted Bat

Side view of spotted bat
The spotted bat population has bounced back in North America since the banning of DDT.

Paul Cryan / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The spotted bat (Euderma maculatum) is unique both for the three white spots on its back, and its ears, which are among the largest — relative to its body size — of any species. it can be found throughout the western United States and Mexico, including in cave structures on the walls of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Widespread use of pesticides like DDT led to a population decline in the 1960s, but it has stabilized since then, and the spotted bat is no longer considered endangered or even threatened. 

17
of 19

Hoary Bat

A hoary bat with gray-tinged fur against a black background
Hoary bats are among the bat species most commonly harmed by wind turbines in the U.S.

Michael Durham / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) is a microbat species found in North and South America, as well as in Hawaii and the Galápagos Islands. It has brown fur with white tips, giving it a unique appearance. Since its island habitats are so far removed from its continental range, these are considered disjunct populations, and how the bats came to inhabit both environments is unknown. The Hawaiian hoary bat is the only land mammal native to the Hawaiian Islands and though the hoary bat's global population numbers are healthy, the Hawaiian population is considered federally endangered.

18
of 19

Spectacled Flying Fox

A spectacled flying fox hangs upside down

Connie Kerr / Getty Images

The spectacled flying fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) is a species of fruit-eating megabat that's found in Australia and New Guinea. Its common name stems from the light-colored fur that surrounds its eyes and nose. It's a tree-dwelling bat and prefers the rainforests of coastal northern Australia to the arid climate of the rest of the country. Sadly, nearly a third of the population in Australia was killed during a record-breaking heatwave in 2018, and the species is now considered endangered

19
of 19

Sulawesi Fruit Bat

A golden-furred flying fox hangs from a tree branch

Scott Heinrichs / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Sulawesi fruit bat (Acerodon celebensis) is a megabat species native to the Sulawesi subregion of Indonesia. It mainly feeds on coconuts and roosts in stands of mangrove trees, often alongside black flying foxes, which will occupy the treetops while the Sulawesi fruit bats roost on the lower branches. It is widely hunted in Indonesia to be sold as bushmeat, and because of this is regionally extinct in what once was the northern reaches of its habitat. It is listed as a vulnerable species

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  2. Eklöf, Johan, and Gareth Jones. "Use Of Vision In Prey Detection By Brown Long-Eared Bats, Plecotus Auritus". Animal Behaviour, vol 66, no. 5, 2003, pp. 949-953. Elsevier BV. doi:10.1006/anbe.2003.2272

  3. He, Weikai et al. "Lancet Dynamics In Greater Horseshoe Bats, Rhinolophus Ferrumequinum". PLOS ONE, vol 10, no. 4, 2015, p. e0121700. Public Library Of Science (Plos). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121700

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