General

Volume 34, Issue 2, Spring 2015

Florida bonneted bat


Bellingen Flyout
Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus) Credit: Merlin D. Tuttle

The Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus) is known from only a few counties in southern Florida. Due to its very limited distribution and its scarcity on the landscape, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls the Florida bonneted bat one of the most critically endangered mammal species in North America.

This species was only recognized in 2008, having previously been considered part of a taxonomically complex group of bonneted bats, called the E. glaucinus complex, found across South and Central America and up into Florida. Careful research identified differences between the Florida population and those of other geographic areas, including the former’s significantly larger size and distinguishing skeletal morphology. Genetic research has also shown that the Florida species is derived from relatives in Cuba and Jamaica.

Little is known about the habitat and roosting needs of this species. Florida bonneted bats have been detected foraging in a wide variety of habitats, including pine rocklands, mangroves, pine flatwoods and wet prairies, as well as residential, suburban and urban areas. Today, very few roost sites are known. Most known roosts occur in bat boxes designed specifically for this large species, however, they have been found in an abandoned red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) cavity and most recently in an abandoned house in the heart of Miami.

Like many bats, the Florida bonneted bat is thought to give birth to only one offspring per breeding season. However, unlike other North American species, the female is capable of going into heat many times during the year. Florida bonneted bats may have two breeding seasons each year; their reproduction has been documented during the summer and the winter.

Since this species doesn’t hibernate, it relies on a year-round supply of prey. Florida bonneted bats are known to feed upon flying insects, including beetles (Coleoptera), true flies (Diptera) and true bugs (Hemiptera). Such a large bat may rely on larger insects as prey, too, but those options may be less abundant than smaller prey. Like other species of this genus, Florida bonneted bats can take flight from the ground, allowing for the possibility that they may also prey upon ground insect species.

Florida bonneted bats are high-flyers and, thus, are rarely caught during surveys. Most detections for this species are acoustic. Scientists believe that there are fewer than 1,000 remaining Florida bonneted bats, and the IUCN Red List has categorized the species as Critically Endangered due primarily to these low numbers and its highly restricted habitat range.

Bellingen Flyout
Florida bonneted bat Credit: Micaela Jemison

There are inherent risks associated with small population size and restricted geographic range, leaving Florida bonneted bats open to many potential threats. The population is vulnerable to random events, such as hurricanes, disease and predation, as well as inbreeding due to their low population numbers.

Human population growth, leading to encroachment, habitat conversion and habitat loss, also is a significant threat to this species. A dearth of scientific information about what this species needs also is a serious concern, as biologists and managers lack the basic understanding of its life history and requirements to inform management decisions.

Research that fills in these gaps, monitoring of known colonies, and cooperation to protect its habitat are needed to ensure that this unique and rare bat continues to be found in Florida’s backyards

 

 

Help protect the Florida bonneted bat

BCI is supporting citizen science projects and scientific research to further our understanding of the habitat use of the endangered Florida bonneted bat. We need to discover the distribution of this species so we can protect its critical habitat in the future. Please help us protect the places our bats call home by donating today!

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