Lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)
Genus Rhinolophus (1)
Size Wingspan: 192-254 mm
Head-body length: 35-45 mm
Weight 5-9 g
European populations are listed under Appendix II of The Bonn Convention, Appendix II of the Bern Convention, and Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats and Species Directive. In the UK it is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and Schedule 2 of the Conservation Regulations 1994.
The lesser horseshoe bat is one of the smallest British bats. It has soft fluffy fur, which is brownish on the back and grey-white on the underside. At rest, this delicate bat wraps its wings around its body as it hangs upside down. Juveniles are dark grey in colour. The generic name Rhinolophus derives from the Greek for 'nose crest', and the specific name hipposideros derives from the Greek for 'horse-iron' or horseshoe. This name refers to the complex nose-leaf, which is thought to act as an 'acoustic lens', focusing echolocation pulses that are emitted from the nose.
Occurs throughout central and southern Europe but has declined in the north. In Britain it has become extinct in the Midlands and in the south-east and is now restricted to south-west England and Wales.
Once found roosting only in caves, maternity roosts now occur in old buildings, often in warm attics. Hibernation still tends to take place underground in caves, mines and cellars. They feed in sheltered valleys, and foothills amongst mixed woodland, and along hedgerows and tree lines.
When hunting, this species flies close to the ground, usually below 5 meters around bushes and shrubs with fast, agile flight. They glean their prey from stones and branches; favourite prey items include flies, moths and spiders. The ultrasound calls tend to be around 110 kHz. This species mates in the autumn, and females give birth to one young between mid-June and the beginning of July in mixed-sex maternity colonies. The young become independent at six-seven weeks of age (4). Hibernation occurs between September and May.
The decline of this species is due to a number of factors including the disturbance or destruction of roosts, changes in agricultural practices such as the increased use of insecticides, which reduces prey availability, and loss of suitable foraging habitat.
Twelve sites are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) for this species, four of which are candidate SACs (Special Areas of Conservation), 70 further sites supporting this species occur within existing SSSIs. This species is part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme, which aims to establish a long-term monitoring programme and is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The Species Action Plan aims to encourage the long-term expansion of the current range through natural recolonisation.
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