Bats of Zion National Park

Dark Sandstone tower, named Watchman, looms under the night sky. Stars dot the night sky as the Milky Way spans the sky
Watchman and the Milky Way

Zion National Park Photo

Zion National Park is an International Dark Sky Park. With this designation and the hard work of many employees within the park, visitors can experience pristine night skies. Having a protected dark sky allows Zion to be a home for many nocturnal animals, including bats.

In Zion, 17 different bat species call this space home. Throughout literature, movies, and television, bats have received a bad reputation; often portrayed as villans. From clearing your campsite of pests to pollinating different plants, bats worldwide do a lot for humans!



Bat Misconceptions

Big Free tailed Bat hanging from tree, peering at photographer
Big Free-tailed Bat

Zion National Park photo

Bat Unbelievable Truths

While you might have navigated through some of the bat misconceptions, there are so many amazing unbelievabe truths.In order to hunt their prey at night, most of them do something called echolocate. They are basically playing Marco Polo with their food. Humans can hear a frequency up to 20 khz. Most bats produce sounds at a higher frequency. Once it hits an object, that high pitch call travels back to the bat. By using echolocation, bats can better understand the direction the prey is moving, the size, and if it is stationary.

Throughout the night, you can hear little clicks made by bats at a lower frequency. These clicks are typically social calls made from one bat to another trying to feel out where they are. A perfect example is the Big Free-tailed bat!

Image of a graph with milliseconds along x axis and kilohertz along y axis. Graph depicts the length of time and pitch of a Big Brown Bat call sequence
Big Brown Bat Call Sequence

Katy Warner/CSU
Carlsbad Caverns National Park

If you see a bat flying around your home or campsite tonight, know that it’s most likely snacking on the flying beetles, gnats, and moths flying above you. They act almost like nature’s pest control. In Zion, there are 17 species of bats working away to rid pests. With that many species, do you think they ever have to compete for food? Yes and No! Biologists have found evidence of what is called "niche partitioning." Bats instinctively know where to hunt for certain prey in order to best avoid other larger bat species or competitors for food. Certain bat species will emerge at specific times to avoid competition and search for their prime food source.

Some bats will still compete for food with each other by jamming the system. When bats make a call out for food, the call has a space between sounds. Ideally, this gap allows the bat to listen for the echo. If there is another bat in that space competing for food, it will send out calls during the other bat's gaps.

Not all bats are competing and some biologists have noticed that bats will help each other from time to time too!

Bat Species Found in Zion

Big Free-Tailed Bat hanging from tree, peering at the photographer
Big free-tailed Bat (Nyctinomops macrotis)

Zion National Park Photo

Big free-tailed Bat

(Nyctinomops macrotis)

A big bat you can come across in Zion is the Big free-tailed bat. With a wingspan of 17-18", this bat is a powerful flyer. The Big free-tailed makes calls with a frequency low enough for humans to hear. This bat leaves its roost late in the evening, on the hunt for large moths. They aren't picky and will go after crickets, flying ants, stink bugs, and leafhoppers.
Large pallid bat in gloved hand. The bat's large ears are distinct on its head. The bat's mouth is open, showing its teeth.
Pallid Bat (Antrozous pallidus)

Zion National Park photo

Pallid Bat

(Antrozous pallidus)

One of the largest bats in Zion, the pallid bat has a wingspan of 15 -16". Due to its size, the pallid bat can get lift off from the ground, almost like a helicopter. This bat emerges later than most bats, around 9 or 10 pm. The pallid does not solely rely on echolocation to hunt, but also uses its large ears to listen for any movement. While hunting, it stays close to the ground where it finds a variety of invertebrates, or occasionally a small rodent or lizard. The pallid bat may be a favorite of some campers, as they can even eat scorpions and centipedes, apparently immune to the venom.
Small Silver-haired bat on a yellow gloved hand
Silver haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)

Chiricahua National Monument photo

Silver haired Bat

(Lasionycteris noctivagans)

The Silver-haired bat gets its name from the silvery-white tips of hair found along its body. This bat species has short, rounded ears and black flight membranes. The coloring of the silver-haired bat makes it distinct amongst other bat species. Like many bats, the Silver-haired bat will hunt moths, true bugs, flies, leafhoppers, flying ants, beetles, and even termites. This tree roosting bat has been found in woodpecker holes, bird nests, and human-made structures like open sheds and garages.
western pipistrelle in gloved hand, caught during mist-netting
Canyon Bat (Parastrellus hesperus)

Pipe Spring National Monument photo

Canyon Bat

(Parastrellus hesperus)
Also known as the canyon bat, this is the smallest bat species in North America, and the most commonly seen bat in Zion. It is the first to come out in the evening, up to two hours before dark. Its wing beat is slow and weak, and at a quick glance it may appear to be a bird in flight. It eats a variety of flying insects including mosquitoes, moths, flies, flying ants, and wasps. Weighing only as much as a nickel, it can eat 20 percent of its weight every night.
Large Townsend's Bat hanging on cave wall, peering at the camera
Townsend's Big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii)

Timpanogos Cave National Monument photo

Townsend's big-eared Bat

(Corynorhinus townsendii)

With a wingspan of 12-13", the Townsend's big-eared is a hard bat to miss. Townsend's big-eared bat has very long ears which measure about half of its body. This species of bat is also known as the "ram-eared" bat. When this bat roosts and hibernates, it has been seen curling its ears across the back and shoulder, mimicing a ram's horns. A strong flyer, the Townsend's big-eared bat has been known to point its ears forward when flying, potentially contributing to the bat's lift. With the late emergence, this bat can be found in the desert scrublands of Zion and in the pinyon juniper of the plateau.

Download the Mammal List for the complete list of bats found in Zion.

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    Last updated: September 3, 2022

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