The vast majority of bats simply aren’t built for taking off from the ground. Finding a bat on the ground is almost always a sign of illness or injury so be prepared to take them to experienced animal rescuers.
In this brief article, we’ll explain exactly why bats aren’t likely to be taking off from the ground and what to do if you encounter a bat on the ground.
As the only mammals capable of flight, bats are quite the achievers
Bats are uniquely adapted for their nocturnal airborne antics with special forelimbs that have a thin membrane known as a patagium. This membrane forms webbed wings when the bat spreads its digits.
They spread the air with their webbed hands, much like a swimmer doing the breaststroke.
It’s hard work but bats are capable sustain flight for hundreds of miles while hunting the insects they eat each night.
But, the flight of a bat does differ from a bird’s flight
Both bats and bird will flap their wings but there are some notable differences in bat flight vs bird flight:
- Birds of course, routinely take off from the ground. For bats, launching themselves from a height is normal.
- Bats cannot walk on the ground
- Bats have a better range of motion in their flight, because of the wing being stretched across their fingers. This inherent dexterity means that they can make subtle adjustments to their flight that save energy and boost endurance.
- Bats also possess hypersensitive hairs that detect air currents so they can be used effectively.
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How do bats normally take off?
Bats launch themselves into flight from a height of at least two to three feet. If a bat is on the ground, it will crawl to a height from which it can launch itself.
Bats taking flight is an acrobatic feat with the bats storing large amounts of energy in their biceps and triceps that is released in a sudden burst come take-off.
These furry flyers drop into flight and then power upward flight through sheer strength. Amazing!
A grounded bat is unusual
So a bat on the ground is an unusual encounter. Only two exotic bat species, the infamous vampire bat and the burrowing bat crawl along the ground as part of their normal behavior, so if you find a bat on the ground it is probably there for one of the following reasons:
- It is exhausted – tired bats may simply look for a sheltered place to recover.
- The bat is injured – an injured bat cannot crawl or fly and will need help.
- It may be a baby or young bat that has fallen from its roost.
What to do if you find a bat on the ground
In most countries, bats and their roosts are protected by robust conservation laws, so seek advice from animal rescue organizations if you are worried about a bat’s welfare.
How to help a grounded bat
- Do not directly handle a bat without gloves as they can bite and may carry diseases.
- You can assist a grounded bat by placing a box over it with cardboard beneath and taking it to an animal shelter for assessment.
- Alternatively, try leaving a grounded bat at height to fly off, but if this does not happen within 30 minutes the bat needs help
As you can see, bats don’t usually take off from the ground. They can and will take off from the ground if they are not too tired or injured.
They will do everything they can to avoid being on the ground. They are also very vulnerable if left on the ground from predators.