Microbats vs. Megabats
The bats of North America belong to a group known as microbats. The species that fall into this category, including little brown bats, big brown bats, and Mexican free-tailed bats, are all small insectivores that rely on echolocation. Larger bats, known as megabats, are found elsewhere in the world and possess excellent eyesight and senses of smell, which they use to track down fruit, small mammals, and even fish. Additionally, a handful of species native to the tropical regions of South and Central America actually feed on the blood of other animals.
Distinguishing between little brown bats, big brown bats, and Mexican free-tailed bats can be tricky. As nocturnal animals, bats take flight at dusk and hunt insects throughout the night, which makes seeing them clearly very difficult. During the day, they hide in secluded roosts, like the insides of attics and chimneys, under bridges, or in dark caves. In general, little brown bats have wingspans under 10 inches and glossy tan or dark-brown fur. Big brown bats tend to have reddish or copper colorations and wingspans over a foot in length. Mexican free-tailed bats may be the easiest to identity since they usually live in extremely large colonies throughout the Southwest United States. These dark gray or brown bats possess wingspans of about a foot lengthwise and have distinct tails that are not fully covered by a wing-like membrane, as is the case in most other species.
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