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The hidden creatures of Melbourne’s backyards

Tuesday 26 September, 2017

They’re small, carnivorous and only come out at night – so most Melburnians have no idea they live in our backyards.

They’re microbats, small bat species which roost in tree hollows or crevices in tree bark during the day, and emerge at night to feed on mosquitoes and other insects.

And contrary to some urban myths, they will not suck your blood or get tangled in your hair.

Some species of microbats are small enough to perch comfortably on the end of a finger. They’re often mistaken for small birds or large moths.

September is National Biodiversity Month and is the perfect time to discover these amazing creatures. Go outside at dusk this month, and you may see one of Melbourne’s seventeen species of bats in your own backyard.

The most common microbat species in Greater Melbourne are the White-striped Freetail Bat, Gould’s Wattled Bat, Chocolate Wattled Bat, Lesser Long-eared Bat, Large Forest Bat, Little Forest Bat and the Southern Forest Bat.

Parks Victoria’s network of urban parks is an important part of ensuring microbats thrive in urban areas. They are especially plentiful along waterways where there are large old trees.

Microbats are not as well-known as their cousins, the fruit-bats or flying foxes. They differ from fruit-bats by being smaller in size, feeding on insects, not fruit, and using “echo-location” to find their food.

Echo-location works a little like a submarine’s sonar, the bat sends out ultrasonic squeaks and uses the echo that comes back to work out where objects are. Not all bat species have squeaks that are audible to human ears. Children are also more likely to hear the audible bat squeaks than adults, as they are typically able to hear higher-pitched sounds.

Biodiversity Month is held in September each year and aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world.

Quotes attributable to Dr Mark Antos, Acting Manager – Science and Management Effectiveness:

“Most Melburnians aren’t aware that they are living alongside these remarkable creatures. Each evening, they perform a vital service above our backyards by feeding on huge amounts of mosquitoes and other pesky insects.

Our parks in Metropolitan Melbourne provide critical habitat and food for bats but householders can also help by creating habitat in their backyards, such as leaving dead branches and loose bark on trees when it’s safe to do so, or by installing bat boxes.”

Media enquiries
Gareth Rees
0417 067 706

Parks Victoria media centre