Bats are some of my favourite animals. It isn’t so much their ability to fly that makes me like them so much, but the fact that they use a combination of flight and echolocation to navigate their world. That’s just super cool. Of course, as long as there are bats in the world, there will be creatures that eat bats. Today’s animal, the bat falcon, makes a fairly good living catching and eating the lovely flying mammals I’m so fond of.

Bat falcons live in Central and South America, ranging from northern Argentina to Mexico. They prefer areas of undisturbed rainforest, but can live in parts of the forest that have been disturbed by human activity.

A bat falcon hanging out on a tree. Image by Joao Quental, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bat falcons are not overly large raptors; males have wingspans of 58 cm, while females are slightly larger, with 67 cm wingspans. They have black heads and backsides, with white and tan underparts. The bat falcon has dark irises, unlike the typical bright yellow eyes associated with most raptors. It is thought that these brown eyes may help the falcon camouflage itself while it’s hunting in the dark.

Mating in bat falcons occurs in the dry season, with courtship occurring between February and April, depending on location. While they are solitary outside of breeding, both parents will actively defend the nest. These birds are not great nest builders, instead laying their eggs in tree cavities, which are often abandoned nest sites from other birds. They will also nest in man-made structures or on cliffs. The female lays two to four eggs, which hatch after four to seven weeks. During their youth, the male bat falcon provides most of the food to the chicks. In just over a month, the chicks are feathered and can eat prey on their own.

Look how dark and brooding he is. What a pretty bird.
Image by Douglas Iuri Medeiros Cabral, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While they are named after their propensity to consume bats, the majority of the bat falcon’s diet consists of other birds and insects. Females tend to eat more bats, as they are larger, while males generally subsist off flying insects, such as dragonflies. Bat falcon diets vary by season, based on the abundance of prey — in the winter there are more insects, while in the summer birds tend to be more plentiful. Bat falcons follow the habits of their favourite prey, hunting at dusk and dawn.

Though I love bats, I also love raptors, and so it’s difficult for me to dislike bat falcons. Especially since I have quite a lot of respect for animals that hunt aerial prey. It cannot be an easy thing to catch bats in the semi-darkness, but bat falcons manage it.

Cover image by Joao Quental, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons