Description: Red bats can be distinguished from other Kansas bats by: 1) individual hairs on the dorsum are banded from basal black to yellow to red and white, 2) presence of a yellowish patch near the shoulders, 3) underparts paler than the back, 4) short, rounded ears, having a triangular tragus with a rounded, forward-curving tip, 5) the entire tail membrane furred on top, 6) the long narrow wing membrane furred near the body, and 7) a keeled calcar. The fur color of male and female red bats differs, in contrast to other Kansas bats in which there is no sexual dimorphism. Males are bright reddish-rusty with white tips on the long hair giving the fur a frosted effect, whereas females are duller and buffy-chestnut with fewer white-tipped hairs. Juveniles have shorter, grayer hair.
Size: Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 103-124 mm; tail 43-60 mm; hind foot 8-10 mm; ear 10-14 mm; weight 6-14 grams.
Range and Habitat: Red bats are migratory, spending summers throughout Kansas and wintering to the east and south, and remain active all winter. They arrive in Kansas as early as mid-March (April in northern Kansas), and are common in deciduous forests throughout the eastern half of the state, but less so in the western half, where they live in riparian forests along water courses.
Reproduction: Both males and females are solitary. Breeding occurs in autumn and sperm remain dormant until ovulation in spring. One to five blind and hairless young (usually three or four in number) are born in mid-June after a gestation period that is reported to be as long as three months. The young cling to the underparts of the female with their hind feet, teeth, and thumb claws. Sometimes, when a cold rain wets their fur, the female and her young fall from trees, and may be found on the ground after storms. The young are left hanging on limbs of trees while the female forages, but if the family is disturbed she may carry the young in flight to a new roost. The young nurse from the four nipples on the female. At about one month they can fly, and are weaned in five to six weeks.
Habits: Red bats are considered "tree bats" like Hoary bats and Silver-haired bats. They hang from sheltered sites on tree limbs, low shrubs, or large sunflowers. Although well camouflaged, they are sometimes seen within reach of the ground. They truly are a solitary bat, and though several may roost in one tree they are rarely close together. In late summer they may enter caves or buildings.
Food: Food consists of flying insects. Foraging begins earlier than in most bats. After getting a drink from a nearby water source, the red bat starts to forage above the tree tops in a relatively slow, erratic flight. Later in the evening it flies lower and more rapidly, and mat attain a speed of 50-65 kilometers per hour. This bat is also attracted to lights to feed on insects, where it rarely may be heard emitting a sharp chirp, chatter, or squeal. On cloudy days it may forage at any time of the day, especially afternoon. In autumn it accumulates fat to provide energy for migration.
Remarks: There appear to be more adult females than males in red bat populations, but this may be a result of different habits of the two sexes which are presently not understood. The sex ratio at birth is equal. Natural enemies of the red bat are bluejays, hawks, owls and other predators that inhabit and forage in trees.
Return to the Mammals of Kansas index page.