IberiaNature A guide to the natural history of Spain
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Bats in Spain

There are 27 species of bat in Spain 

See Largest colony in Spain of Bechstein's Bat found.+ Magpies preying on common pipistrelle + Rabies in Spain from bats

Bat : murcíelago; rat penat (Cat.) 

Spanish bats

  • barbastelle : barbastela or murciélago de bosque (Barbastella barbastellus);
  • Bechstein's bat : murciélago ratonero forestal (Myotis bechsteini);
  • brown long-eared bat : murciélago orejudo dorado (Plecotus auritus);
  • common pipistrelle : murciélago enano (or de Cabrera) (Pipistrellus mediterraneus)
  • Daubenton's bat : murciélago ratonero ribereño (Myotis daubentoni)

Not threatened. Throughout Peninsula. More common in the north and rare in arid south-east. absent from the Islands

  • European free-tailed bat : murciélago rabudo (Tadarida teniotis)
  • Geoffroy's bat : murciélago ratonero pardo (Myotis emarginata)
  • greater horseshoe bat : murciélago grande de herradura (Rhinolophus ferrumequinun);
  • greater mouse-eared bat : murciélago ratonero grande : (Myotis myotis);
  • greater noctule : nóctulo grande (Nyctalus lasiopterus);

A rare kind of European bat regularly feasts on birds, surprised biologists have discovered. And they suspect that the large bats are capable of hunting down the birds in flight, something no researcher has ever seen. A study of faecal pellets revealed the greater noctule bat, Nyctalus lasiopterus , eats large numbers of migratory birds, called passerines Read more here: Spanish Bats revealed as bird killers (New Scientist); Or read about bird eating bats here below Magpies preying on common pipistrelle

  • grey long-eared bat : murciélago orejudo gris ( Plecotus austriacus) ;
  • Leisler's bat : nóctulo pequeño (Nyctalus leisleri)
  • lesser horseshoe bat : murciélago pequeño de herradura (Rhinolophus hipposideros);
  • lesser mouse-eared bat : murciélago ratonero mediano (Myotis blythii);
  • long-fingered bat : murciélago ratonero patudo (Myotis capaccinii)
  • Madeira pipistrelle : murciélago de Madeira (Pipistrellus maderensis)
  • Mediterranean horseshoe bat : murciélago mediterráneo de herradura (Rhinolophus euryale)
  • Mehely's horseshoe bat : murciélago mediano de herradura (Rhinolophus mehelyi)
  • Natterer's bat : murciélago ratonero gris (Myotis nattereri)
  • noctule (or great bat) : nóctulo mediano (Nyctalus noctula)
  • pipistrelle or common bat : murciélago enano (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

07/10/2006 Largest colony of endangered Bechstein's Bat in Iberian Peninsula found in Catalonia.

The largest colony of the endangered Bechstein's Bat (Myotis bechsteini - murciélago ratonero forestal) in the Iberian Peninsula has been discovered in the Alta Garrotxa in Catalonia by Xavier Puig of the wildlife research group Galanthus, as part of a bat census together with the Museum of Granollers. The colony is formed by 24 individuals and is the first non-fossil citing for Catalonia. These bats, probably the rarest species in Europe, live in mature forests with old trees with plenty of nooks and crannies for shelter. They will also nest in cracks in rocks and even old buildings. They have a penchant for taking non-flying invertebrates (spiders, centipedes, caterpillars, etc) on the ground, or vegetation, swooping upon them with their slow, low-flying ponderous but agile flight, though they'll also snap up insects from the air. Fossil evidence suggests that 5000 years ago Bechstein's bat was one of the commonest species in Europe, thriving in the continent's old mature woods, but the historic destruction of forests has led them to their current plight. Photo of Bechstein's bat by Xavier Puig.

Magpies preying on common pipistrelle

The December 2005 print edition of the execellent Quercus (the only wildlife magazine in Spain) has an interesting article on magpies preying on bats - common pipistrelle (murciélago enano Pipistrellus pipistrellus). After a chance observation in the town of Alcala de Henares (near Madrid) the Universidad de Alcala de Henares carried out a survey. A pair of magpies preyed on a colony of pipistelles, by waiting above and snatching the bats as they come out of their roost. Over the study peiod they took 1 bat a day. This is first documented case in Spain, and one of the first in the world (there is a UK citation). The authors speculate that as magpies expand into Spanish cities they will acquire new habits and skills, and that bats, a plentiful food source, may well represent a common prey.

click above on play (you need flash to see this )

Video from the university website here .

  • Schreiber's bat : murciélago de cueva (Miniopterus schreibersi)
  • serotine bat : murciélago hortelano (Eptesicus serotinus)
  • Tenerife long-eared bat : murciélago orejudo canario (Plecotus teneriffae)
  • whiskered bat : murciélago ratonero bigotudo (Myotis mystacinus)

Rabies in Spain from bats

From Eurosurveillance Weekly 2003;7 (27): 030703

The new face of rabies in Spain: infection through insectivorous bats, 1987-2002

"The latest cases of endemic terrestrial rabies in Spain, both in humans and animals, appeared in the 1960s. An outbreak of rabies that lasted two years began in the south of Spain in 1975. Started by a dog introduced from a neighbouring country, the outbreak caused more than 280 cases in dogs, cats, and foxes, as well as one in a man, a doctor who had been bitten by a dog. The patient's post-exposure treatment had been stopped because of a severe reaction to the vaccine. At that time, the Semple vaccine was used in Spain.

Since 1977 mainland Spain has remained free of rabies cases in terrestrial mammals. The only endemic animal cases have been found in the cities of Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish towns in north Africa) (references 1,2, and table 1)

Compulsory vaccination with thorough checking of vaccination status during dog censuses was vital for the eradication of endemic disease on the mainland.

Table 1. Cases of animal rabies in Spain, 1987-2002.

Year Peninsula and islands North Africa Total
Ceuta Melilla
1987 2 bats (*) 6 (3 dogs, 3 cats) 2 dogs 10
1988 0 1 dog 3 dogs 4
1989 5 bats (**) 0 1 dog 6
1990 0 0 6 dogs 6
1991 0 5 dogs 3 dogs 8
1992 0 5 dogs 7 dogs 12
1993 0 1 dog 4 dogs 5
1994 1 bat(*) 0 2 dogs 3
1995 0 0 6 (5 dogs, 1 cat) 6
1996 0 1 dog 0 1
1997 0 0 5 (4 dogs, 1 horse) 5
1998 0 3 dogs 4 dogs 7
1999 4 bats (2*, 2**) 0 3 dogs 7
2000 5 bats (**) 0 2 dogs 7
2001 0 0 9 dogs 9
2002 1(*) 0 7 (6 dogs, 1 horse) 8
Total 18 bats 22 (19 dogs 3 cats) 64 (61 dogs, 1 cat, 2 horses) 104

Rabies in insectivorous bats in Spain

Assailant bats
Although transmission of the disease by bat bites was already known, there had been no reported cases of infection in bats in Spain until the summer of 1987, when a sleeping child was attacked by a bat in Valencia. The animal was positive for a rabies-like virus (Table 2) in both the direct immunofluorescence and other tests (3). A second bat case was diagnosed a few months later, in Granada, when a bat bit an adult in an unprovoked attack. A third bat case, this time of European Bat Lyssavirus 1 (EBL1) was diagnosed in 1994, again in Granada. The attack occurred in a park, when a man picked up a bat that was lying on the ground, and was bitten on the hand. The bat was captured, confirmed to have rabies, and identified as a serotine bat ( Eptesicus serotinus ) (2). The fourth case, also EBL1, occurred in Sevilla in 1999, when a bat fell on a person inside a building, and bit his hand (4). This bat was also identified as Eptesicus serotinus , which is common in towns (4).

A further attack took place in the summer of 1999, in a rural area in Murcia, when a sleeping five year old girl was bitten by a bat. Another attack took place in Murcia in April 2002, 20 km from the previous attack. In each case, the assailant bat showed signs of illness.

In normal conditions, bats of these species do not frequent places inhabited by humans. They tend to attack if ill with encephalitis, if they are sheltering in rooms where people sleep, or because they have been picked up by a human.

Table 2. Spain: cases in humans caused by rabid bats.

Year Origin Species Virus type Circumstances of the attack
1987 Valencia (El Saler) Pipistrellus pipistrellus (possibly) Similar to Serotype IV. Duvenhage* source. Bite on the back of a sleeping child. The animal was sheltering in the bedroom.
1987 Granada Eptesicus serotinus (possibly) Similar to Serotype IV. Duvenhage* source. Unprovoked bite.
1994 Granada Eptesicus serotinus ELB1 Bite upon picking up sick animal.
1999 Sevilla Eptesicus serotinus ELB1 Bite on the hand without provocation. Attack inside a building.
1999 Murcia (Llanos de Brujas) Eptesicus serotinus ELB1 Bite on the neck and arm of a sleeping child.
2002 Murcia (Archena) Eptesicus serotinus ELB1 Bite received by a girl.


See also wildlife in Spain - Wolf watching in the Sierra de la Culebra - Spanish Bear News - Iberian Lynx News - Iberian Lynx - Badgers in Spain - Wolves in Spain -Wolves, boars and capercaillie - Deer in Spain - Barbary apes in Gibraltar - European and American mink - Coypu in Spain - Pyrenean mountain goat - English-Spanish-Latin mammal checklist for Spain - Comparative table of Castilian and Catalan dictionaries on zoology -- Bats in Spain - Chamois in Spain - European and American mink - Acorns and rats in Castile Mammals in Spain -Wild Cats in Spain