If it comes as a surprise to you that there are bats in Hawaii, you aren’t alone. I’ve lived here for a long time and had never seen one until recently. Then one evening while walking along Kauai’s Hanalei Bay, I noticed what I thought were birds flying at sunset over the shoreline. Upon closer inspection of their unique flying patterns, I realized that these were no birds. They are Hawaiian Hoary bats.
The bats, Hawaii’s only native land mammals, are brown/gray with white tips at their extremities. It’s their unique fur pattern after which they are named. Since 1970, they have been on the US and Hawaii list of endangered species. Damage to their population has probably been the result of deforestation and pesticide use.
Where to find them
Hawaii’s bats typically seek solitude, so you won’t find them flying around in Honolulu. The largest populations are on the Big Island and Kauai, although they can still be seen on all of the islands. Most people I’ve spoken with have rarely, if ever, seen them. As is common with other bats, they are most commonly seen in the early evening, just before dark. At that time they’ll be feeding over streams, bays, or in my recent sighting, along the coast.
Other interesting facts
While relatively little is still known about them, they are believed to roost in trees and live at altitudes varying from sea level to Hawaii’s tallest peaks.
The bats emit various sounds. These include high frequency calls used to detect their insect diet as well as low frequency, humanly audible social sounds. It is believed that some Hawaiian moths can even hear the high pitched sounds and thus avoid becoming part of the bat diet.
Have you seen a Hawaiian Hoary bat?
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Photo credit: Wikipedia