Virginia Big-Eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus)


The Virginia Big-Eared Bat (Corynorhinus Townsendii Virginianus) is a highly intriguing species that has captured the attention of researchers and conservationists alike. Its distinct physical characteristics, including its large ears, make it a unique and visually striking mammal. This bat is an essential part of the ecosystem, playing a vital role in pollination and insect control. However, due to habitat loss and disturbance, the population of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat has declined significantly, prompting urgent conservation efforts to protect this fascinating species.

Key Takeaways

  • Virginia Big-Eared Bats have large ears and small bodies, with a wingspan of 10-12 inches and weighing 9-12 grams.
  • They are found in the eastern United States, primarily in the Appalachian Mountains and parts of the Midwest, preferring cave environments with specific conditions.
  • Virginia Big-Eared Bats are insectivorous and use echolocation to locate and capture prey in flight. They primarily forage in open habitats with high insect abundance.
  • Threats to the Virginia Big-Eared Bat population include habitat loss, fragmentation, pesticide use, white-nose syndrome, and climate change. Conservation efforts focus on habitat protection and raising awareness about the bat’s importance.

Physical Characteristics

Virginia Big-Eared Bats (Corynorhinus Townsendii Virginianus) are commonly characterized by their distinctively large ears, which are disproportionately prominent on their small bodies. These bats have a wingspan of approximately 10-12 inches and weigh around 9-12 grams. They are found in the eastern United States, primarily in the Appalachian Mountains and parts of the Midwest.

Migration patterns of Virginia Big-Eared Bats vary depending on the region and climate. In the northern parts of their range, these bats are known to migrate to warmer regions during the winter months. However, in the southern parts, they tend to remain in their roosting sites year-round. During migration, they often travel long distances to find suitable habitats that offer ample food resources and appropriate roosting locations.

One of the most remarkable abilities of Virginia Big-Eared Bats is their echolocation capabilities. Like other bat species, they use echolocation to navigate and locate prey in complete darkness. By emitting high-frequency sounds and listening to the echoes that bounce back, these bats can accurately detect and capture insects in flight. Their large ears play a crucial role in receiving and processing the returning echoes, allowing them to effectively hunt and survive in their environment.

Habitat and Range

The habitat and range of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat are influenced by various factors, including their ecological requirements and habitat availability. These bats have specific habitat requirements that contribute to their geographical distribution. They prefer cave environments with cool temperatures, high humidity, and low light conditions. The presence of suitable roosting sites is crucial for their survival. They typically select caves with vertical rock faces and large chambers that provide ample space for roosting. Additionally, these bats are highly sensitive to disturbance and prefer undisturbed caves that are free from human interference.

The geographical distribution of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat is limited to certain regions in the eastern United States. They are primarily found in the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Within these states, they inhabit limestone caves and other similar karst formations. The table below provides a summary of the geographical distribution of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat:

State Number of Colonies Estimated Population
Virginia 25 2,500-3,000
North Carolina 15 1,500-2,000
Kentucky 10 800-1,000

Feeding Behavior

Feeding behavior of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat is influenced by its habitat requirements and ecological preferences. These bats are insectivorous, relying primarily on insects for their diet. They employ various foraging techniques to capture their prey.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats are known to use both aerial and ground foraging strategies. They typically forage in open habitats such as meadows, fields, and along forest edges where insect abundance is high. These bats use echolocation to locate their prey, emitting ultrasonic calls and listening for the echoes that bounce back. Once they have detected a potential prey item, they swoop down and capture it in flight using their sharp teeth and agile flight maneuverability.

In terms of prey preferences, Virginia Big-Eared Bats primarily feed on moths, beetles, flies, and other nocturnal insects. They are known to consume a variety of insects, but their diet may vary depending on the availability of specific prey species in their habitat. These bats have been observed to exhibit a preference for insects with soft bodies, such as moths, which provide a higher energy content compared to insects with harder exoskeletons.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Influenced by its habitat requirements and ecological preferences, the reproduction and life cycle of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat are intriguing subjects of study. Mating habits of these bats are highly seasonal, with mating typically occurring in the late summer or early fall. Male bats attract females through vocalizations and scent marking, engaging in courtship behavior that may include wing flapping and chasing. Once a female is receptive, copulation occurs, often resulting in fertilization of a single egg.

Following fertilization, the female undergoes delayed implantation, a unique reproductive strategy observed in some bat species. During this period, the fertilized egg remains in a state of suspended development within the female’s reproductive tract until conditions are optimal for implantation and gestation. Once implantation occurs, the embryo develops rapidly, and the female carries the young for approximately 50 to 60 days.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats exhibit a form of parental care known as “maternal care.” After giving birth, the female provides nourishment and protection to her offspring. The young bats, also known as pups, are born relatively large and well-developed. They cling to their mother’s body, nursing on her milk until they are weaned at around six weeks of age.

Understanding the reproductive and life cycle characteristics of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat is crucial for conservation efforts and ensuring the long-term survival of this species. Further research is needed to explore the specific environmental factors that influence mating habits and the mechanisms behind parental care in these bats.

Conservation Efforts

Efforts to conserve the Virginia Big-Eared Bat’s population have been implemented through various strategies and initiatives. With a significant decline in population due to human impact, it is crucial to take action to protect this species. The following are some of the conservation efforts that have been undertaken:

  • Habitat Protection
  • Establishing and maintaining protected areas and conservation easements to preserve the bat’s natural habitat.
  • Implementing land management practices that promote suitable roosting and foraging conditions for the bats.
  • Education and Outreach
  • Raising awareness among the public, landowners, and policymakers about the importance of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat and the need to protect its habitat.
  • Providing educational materials and workshops to promote bat-friendly practices, such as reducing pesticide use and preserving roosting sites.

These conservation efforts aim to mitigate the negative impacts of human activities on the Virginia Big-Eared Bat population. By protecting their habitat and increasing public awareness, it is hoped that the population decline can be reversed, ensuring the long-term survival of this unique species. Continued research and monitoring are also essential to assess the effectiveness of these conservation measures and adapt strategies as needed.

Bat Species

Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii)
Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
Seminole bat (Lasiurus seminolus)
Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)
Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis)
Red bat (Lasiurus borealis)
Gray bat (Myotis grisescens)
Eastern small-footed myotis (Myotis leibii)
Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis)
Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus)
Southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius)
Northern bat (Myotis septentrionalis)
Eastern pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus)

Bat Related Diseases

White-Nose Syndrome

Nuisance Bat Topics

Bat Removal

Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions people ask about the Virginia Big-Eared Bat often revolve around its physical characteristics, behavior, diet, habitat, and conservation status.

What does the Virginia Big-Eared Bat look like? 

The Virginia Big-Eared Bat is a medium-sized bat, with adults measuring between 3.5 and 4.5 inches in length and weighing less than half an ounce. It has large, distinctive ears that are over an inch in length and join across its forehead. The fur is light to dark brown, depending on the bat’s age, with its back usually a darker brown and its underparts more buff-colored[1][5].

What is the behavior of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat? 

This bat is fairly sedentary, migrating no more than about 40 miles between hibernation and maternity caves. It returns to the same roosts year after year and prefers cool, well-ventilated caves for hibernation. Bats hibernate singly and in clusters, hanging upside-down with wings wrapped around the body and interlocked[3].

What does the Virginia Big-Eared Bat eat? 

The Virginia Big-Eared Bat primarily feeds on moths, but it can also eat small insects. They feed over open pastures and fields, and around the crowns of trees[1][4].

Where does the Virginia Big-Eared Bat live? 

The Virginia Big-Eared Bat is found in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. It prefers caves in karst regions (areas underlain with limestone bedrock and many caves and sinkholes) dominated by oak-hickory or beech-maple-hemlock forest. These bats usually hibernate in tight clusters near entrances of caves that are well-ventilated and where temperatures range from 32 to 54 degrees F[6].

What is the conservation status of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat? 

The Virginia Big-Eared Bat is listed as an endangered species due to its small population, limited habitat, and small distribution. The total population is probably less than 200,000 individuals. The primary threats to this species are loss and degradation of hibernacula (places where animals hibernate) and summer roosts. Protection of these areas are conservation priorities[1][2][7].


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