From anatomical to behavioral differences, bats are very different from birds.


By Rachel Harper 

A graph showing the anatomical differences and similarities between a human arm, a bird wing and a bat wing.
Comparing anatomy, Arizona State University

Bats! They’re like birds except that they are completely different in almost every way. First off, birds are birds and bats are mammals. Or, birds are a taxonomic class of their own- Aves, and bats belong to the class Mammalia and the order Chiroptera. Bats and birds pretty much have only one main thing in common, flight, and some birds don’t even fly! And when it comes to flying, bats are adapted to be more maneuverable and agile flyers than most birds. Despite sharing wings, bats and birds are different in almost every way. 

Anatomically, bats are similar to other mammals and actually share a lot of the same skeletal structure as humans, including having five digits. Bats have fur, birds have feathers. Bats have teeth, birds have beaks. Bats give birth, birds lay eggs. Bats have belly buttons! And of course, (most) bats use echolocation. Bats have an excellent sense of hearing used for hunting and navigation. Can you picture a bird with ears? Probably not, because birds don’t even have external ears. 

Key differences and similarities between bats and birds.

The final consideration is that people see birds everywhere! Birds can thrive in urban and exotic habitats. They are diurnal and nocturnal. They plainly hang out in trees, on the ground, on water, even on your car. It’s hard to go a day and not see a bird. Whereas bats are nocturnal, roost in small spaces, and many species thrive in uninhabited environments where people aren’t. Seeing a bat is like seeing a shooting star, almost literally. They’re so speedy that even after you see one you might be asking yourself if it was real. You probably didn’t have time to even think of getting a picture. So, while they may be out of sight, let’s make sure bats are still top of mind. And let’s give them the full credit of being the only true flying mammals.  

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