Soprano pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus

Soprano pipistrelle - click to enlargeThe soprano pipistrelle is the second most common bat in Northern Ireland after the common pipistrelle. It was only recently discovered that the bat we thought was the common pipistrelle was actually two species, now called the common pipistrelle and the soprano pipistrelle. The soprano pipistrelle has dark brown fur on the back and is slightly paler underneath. They regularly roost in very large numbers in houses. Soprano pipistrelles forage along broadleaf tree lines and woodland, frequently near to water. In winter, the soprano pipistrelle hibernates.

SPECIES DESCRIPTION: The colour of the fur is reddish brown to dark brown on the back and grey-brown on the underside. The membranes, ear and face are usually very dark brown. In comparison to the common pipistrelle, the face of the soprano pipistrelle is generally light, being similar in colour to the rest of the body. However, this is not always the case and occasionally soprano pipistrelles occur with a dark band across the face similar to that of the common pipistrelle. The ears are short and broad while the tragus is short, parallel-sided and terminates in a blunt tip. A small lobe is present on the calcar of the tail membrane which separates the pipistrelle and Leisler's bats from all other species in Northern Ireland. Head and body length is about 35-45mm and the forearm is about 28-35mm. The weight of adults can vary from 3.7 to 5.8g. Soprano pipistrelles emerge early, occasionally before sunset and their flight is rapid and agile, 5-10m above ground. Soprano pipistrelles roost in buildings and tree holes. In comparison with the common pipistrelle, roosts tend to be large, very occasionally numbering one or two thousand. Bats roost under slates, in cracks in walls, and under soffit and barge boards. Females form large maternity colonies during May and give birth to young during June and July. The young are weaned and able to fly at around 3-4 weeks. Males are solitary during this time and establish mating territories during August. The mating period extends to October and male bats are particularly vocal at this time producing many social calls to attract a mate. Males form harems. Fertilisation is delayed and hibernation occurs from late October to late March or early April.

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© Jon Russ 2001. Text refereed by Angela Ross & Lynne Rendle.

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