Western red bats camouflage among the leaves.

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WESTERN RED BAT (LASIURUS BLOSSEVILLII) BY J. SCOTT ALTENBACH

While some bats roost in rock crevices, overhangs, and anywhere else they can squeeze in, western red bats (Lasiurus blossevillii) are a little more particular when selecting their roosting locations. These bright amber colored bats look like dead leaves when curled up, which allows them to camouflage among leaves. So it’s not surprising they roost mostly in trees and shrubs, though they have occasionally been spotted in other places. 

Orchard trees are a favorite roost location, as are cottonwoods. They prefer riparian areas near water, and are generally found below 6500 feet in elevation. Many live in California’s Sacramento Valley, though they can be found in parts of the southwest U.S, and possibly into Central and South America. 

Areas with thick tree cover above are ideal habitat, since the canopy protects them from predators. They prefer a clear area below so they can swoop down and take flight. Moths are a favorite food, as are beetles and flying ants. Once in a while, they will grab an insect from the ground, but they usually prefer to capture them “on the wing.” Western red bats can often be seen hunting by the forest edge, and they are also commonly spotted near streetlights.

WESTERN RED BAT BY JOSE GABRIEL MARTINEZ FONSECA

Typically, they are solitary, though groups will join together for migration and mating. Females usually give birth to two or three pups at a time. These tiny babies will start to fly just three or four weeks after birth.

When winter comes around, scientists aren’t sure exactly if or where they hibernate, though many suspect leaf litter or thick grasses could be potential spots (based on the behaviors of the similar eastern red bat). Many western red bats are believed to migrate to warmer locations when the weather gets harsh, with some likely heading south and others moving closer to temperate coastal areas. 

So next time you see leaves swaying on a tree, take a closer look and see if they’re really leaves or if perhaps you’ve spotted a special foliage-dwelling bat.