Thursday, April 29, 2010

Birth of a Bat

In the course of field work last week, we had a most strange and wondrous experience. We'd gone south, to Belize's Mountain Pine Ridge, doing a bat survey which involved using harp traps as well as acoustic recording. As the name implies, the harp trap has "strings" suspended on a frame, and depending on placement, the bat flies into the strings and tumbles gently into a canvas holding bag. Bruce retrieves the bat, records the pertinent data and releases it, unharmed.

On this day, a nectar feeding bat, Hylonycteris underwoodi, gave birth in his hand! No sooner had he pulled her from the soft cotton holding bag, just like that, her baby popped out. It was total surprise to all of us. You can see it in the photo above, a wet little package that the mother is holding with her feet.

Given the unexpected birth, we wondered whether to put the pair in a warm, dark place to "bond" or what exactly was the best post natal care to offer. As it turned out, the mother bat knew just what to do and wasted no time going about it. She hiked the baby up to her breast with a foot and launched, disappearing into the forest, heading for home.


  1. How cool is that?! Simply amazing! Your life in the field is full of wonderful experiences and I'm so happy that you share them here. I'm really loving these posts about bats. Thanks Carolyn, and Bruce too. What a team you guys make.

  2. What a neat experience! I accidentally captured a few mother little browns with babies attached to the nipple last summer, but I've certainly never had one born in my hand.

  3. It was REALLY neat. It all happened in a matter of moments and I only got the one photo. We were left with an immense sense of relief that the mothering instinct was strong enough to take over and neither one was harmed. To say nothing of amazement ... !