Why Do Bats Fly So Low?

Most commonly, bats exhibit specific flying patterns and fly high in the air, while a few of their colonies engage in low-flying behavior at certain times of the year.

Why Do Bats Fly So Low? Bats fly so low when targeting prey or roosting places on the ground, regulating body temperature, accessing water sources, avoiding bird predators, engaging in courtship, and conserving energy. They fly close to humans as they feel body heat and get attracted to it. Urban, insectivorous, and fishing bats usually fly close to the ground.

They change their flight behavior and patterns according to their needs, depending on their habitat, ecological conditions, and species type.

What makes a bat fly so low?

They usually fly higher in the air as their streamlined bodies can easily glide in the presence of air currents, while a few reasons account for a change in bats’ behavior. Here are the main reasons why these mammals fly near the ground.

Target prey on the ground

They are insectivorous creatures that feed on night-flying insects to seek nutrition. They attack a large number of ground insects, like beetles, mosquitoes, and moths, to get proteins.

Almost 40 species of bats solely feed on insects, and a brown bat can eat around 5 to 8 grams of insects every night. Accordingly, they have to get closer to the ground to capture prey.

These insectivorous insects also feed on fish, fruits, and small vertebrates, so they stay low and reach the ground surface to capture the prey animals.

Accordingly, capturing a beetle crawling on the ground is easy by flying lower after targeting it while gliding in the air. It is a strategic move to capture the prey without losing it.

Look for a roosting place

They can fly lower to look for a roosting place as they have some requirements about a roosting spot. Some roost within tree canopies, while others choose caves, roof spaces, or boards.

Accordingly, they have a sophisticated method of finding a suitable place, known as echolocation, and involves using sound to locate the spot.

They use sound waves to determine the location of an object as they produce a sound that bounces back after touching an object. These animals estimate the time taken by sound waves to return.

It can help find roosting places in the dark because they rely on echolocation for most of their activities at nighttime. They are not blind but cannot see clearly in the dark.

Avoid bird predators

Their common predators include falcons, snakes, owls, and hawks, which are prey of birds. They fly at a lesser height from the ground to protect themselves from attacks by predatory birds.

These mammals quickly move downward after seeing an attacking falcon or a hawk because they cannot fight with bigger predators for their survival.

Accordingly, it is better to escape and hide at suitable spots to avoid the risks of attacks. They can use obstacles, like building structures, to protect themselves by staying low.

Conserve energy

Flying in the air requires a lot of energy as birds have to maintain their bodies for many hours up in the sky. It is challenging for bats to remain high in the air and maintain a sustained flight.

Accordingly, they glide downward and stay close to the ground to conserve energy. Their metabolic system is efficient, which helps balance energy conservation and staying low.

There is less resistance from the wind while flying at low altitudes, which relates to less energy expenditure to engage in a flight.

So, staying low is quite beneficial for bats when they have to cover a long distance during migration, as they have to conserve energy to maintain the position for a long.

Regulate body temperature

It is essential for these mammals to keep their bodies at an ideal temperature for the proper functioning of their bodies. Body cells need the correct temperature to carry out chemical reactions.

Thermal regulation is also a notable reason for bats to stay so low, as the air is warmer, close to the ground. This behavior provides an advantage in the cooler period of the day.

They usually fly low at the time of dawn or dusk when the air is cooler than the rest of the day and night. I frequently see them flying around the buildings and trees at sunset.

Engage in courtship

Commonly, they perform aerial courtship displays but also reach the ground surface to engage in courtship with their partner inside caves.

The males wave their wings or bite on the female body to awaken her at night. Some males also rub their heads against the female’s body to entice her to copulate.

So, courtship can be the reason for a male bat to fly near the ground, but it does not happen frequently, as a few species can also mate in mid-air.

Access water source

They get close to the surface to seek water from lakes, rivers, and ponds. They swoop down to the water source and hydrate themselves by drinking water.

In addition, they also capture water bodies and eat insects for their nutrition. Targeting the water bodies by staying close to the water’s surface and pulling them out quickly is easy.

Why do bats fly so close to humans?

You probably have seen bats flying close to the ground and humans, which seems astonishing as they do not obtain food from alive or dead humans.

These are not blind creatures and see humans; they still get closer to a human body. One of my friends said a bat got closer to his head when walking by the roadside.

These mammals get so close to humans because they can detect body heat due to the presence of facial nerves. They can see around 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit temperature at minimum.

Moreover, it can sense the warmth of a warm-blooded creature from a distance of 15 to 20cm (6 to 8 inches) and reach them to seek warmth. They are attracted to body heat, not to humans.

What type of bats commonly fly so low?

A few species of bats commonly stay close to the ground and fly low because their food sources and roosting places are on the ground.

These species include urban bats that usually inhabit urban environments and build roosting spots on buildings. They frequently fly low while navigating landscapes for food and roosting sites.

Mexican free-tailed and brown long-eared bats belong to the category of urban species that are commonly seen flying close to the ground surface.

Moreover, some fishing bats get close to the water surfaces to reach the sea surface to capture prey or fish. They fly over water bodies and skim the water surface to get aquatic prey.

In addition, insectivorous bats like little brown and big brown bats also fly low while searching for prey on the ground. They eat insects and reach the ground to capture tiny moths and beetles.

The Common pipistrelle also belongs to a group of these insectivorous mammals and feeds solely on insects, which can make them fly near the surface.

Furthermore, long-nosed or Brazilian free-tailed bats are cave-swelling species that stay low while entering their caves or leaving them at night.

The frugivorous species like Mexican long-nosed or Indian flying foxes stay low when picking fruits or floral nectar from plants.

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