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silver-haired bat

Lasionycteris noctivagans

What do they look like?

Silver-haired bats are medium sized bats, weighing 8 to 12 grams. Measurements of these bats include: total length, 90 to 115 mm; tail length, 35 to 50 mm; wingspread, 270 to 310 mm; forearm, 37 to 44 mm; head size, 60 mm long; and a hind foot length of 6 to 12 mm. Silver-haired bats receive their name from their dark, silver-tipped fur. The fur is usually black in color, however some individuals may be dark brown with yellow-tipped fur. The ears of these bats are relatively short (15 to 17 mm in height), round, and naked. The top of the tail membrane is lightly furred, with 50 to 75% of the tail being naked.

  • Range mass
    8 to 12 g
    0.28 to 0.42 oz
  • Range length
    90 to 115 mm
    3.54 to 4.53 in
  • Range wingspan
    270 to 310 mm
    10.63 to 12.20 in

Where do they live?

Silver-haired bats are found throughout the United States (with Florida as a possible exception), northward into southern Canada up to the treeline, and reach their northern limits in Alaska. The range may also include extreme northeastern Mexico (due to similar habitat conditions), although they have not been seen there.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Silver-haired bats prefer northern deciduous forests with ponds or streams nearby. The typical day roost for the bat is behind loose tree bark. Silver-haired bats appear to be particularly fond of willow, maple and ash trees (most likely due to the deep crevices in the bark). Hollow trees and bird nests also provide daytime roosting areas for silver-haired bats. Less common daytime roosts include buildings, such as open sheds and garages; however, due to their solitary nature and adaptation to woodland roosts, these bats rarely invade buildings in large enough numbers to cause alarm. During the winter months, silver-haired bats that hibernate find shelter in northern areas inside trees, buildings, rock crevices, and similar protected structures.

  • These animals are found in the following types of habitat
  • temperate

How do they reproduce?

Courtship and mating of silver-haired bats occurs in autumn when both sexes gather together for migration. The embryos do not begin developing during the winter when the mother is hibernating; instead, fertilization happens the next spring. Births occur after a pregnancy of 50 to 60 days. While giving birth, the female roosts with her head facing upward. The tail membrane is bent forward to form a basket, in which the young are caught as they leave the birth canal. Two young are produced, usually between late June and early July.

  • Breeding season
    Courtship and mating of silver-haired bats occurs in autumn.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    50 to 60 days
  • Average weaning age
    36 days
  • Range time to independence
    21 to 36 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    152 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    152 days

Newborns weigh about 2g. The litter weight equals 36% of the mother's body weight. Young are born with their eyes closed, ears folded over, and most of their 22 baby teeth in place. Within a period of 21 to 36 days, young are able to find food for themselves.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

Tooth wear of silver-haired bats suggests that these bats can live up to 12 years.

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    12 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    12 years

How do they behave?

Silver-haired bats have been reported to be one of the earliest fliers in the evening, sometimes appearing in broad daylight. However, other sources claim that these bats are late-evening fliers. The flying time of silver-haired bats is believed to be adjusted by the bat so that it will not conflict with the flying times of the red, hoary, or big brown bats. Silver haired-bats are believed to be one of the slowest flying bats in North America (possibly second to western pipestrelles), with a flight speed of 4.8-5.0 m/s.

The adults usually appear singly, but can occasionally be found in pairs or small groups. During the summer, the bats are believed to segregate by sex. During late summer and autumn, however, silver-haired bats join in groups containing both sexes to migrate to the southern parts of their range. Some silver-haired bats are also known to hibernate in the northern locations.

How do they communicate with each other?

Silver-haired bats use echolocation to find their prey. They have acute hearing, and communicate with one another using sound. Baby bats give high-pitched chirps when they become separated from their mothers.

What do they eat?

Silver-haired bats are insectivorous. Their diet is mostly made up of flies, beetles, and moths. However, these bats take the opportunity to feed on any concentration of insects they come across. They have a short-range feeding strategy, traveling over woodland ponds and streams. Silver-haired bats do not always feed in mid-flight; they have been caught in mouse traps, suggesting that they look for food on the ground, and they have been reported to eat insect larvae on trees.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Predators of silver-haired bats include striped skunks and great horned owls.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Silver-haired bats have an important role in the food chain, because they eat large amounts of insects.

Do they cause problems?

Silver-haired bats are sometimes thought to give rabies to humans.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • injures humans
    • carries human disease

How do they interact with us?

Silver-haired bats help with insect control, consuming large numbers of insects each night.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • controls pest population

Are they endangered?

Silver-haired bats have no special endangered or threatened status; however, activities such as logging and deforestation may pose a threat for the bat in the future.

Temperate North American bats are now threatened by a fungal disease called “white-nose syndrome.” This disease has devastated eastern North American bat populations at hibernation sites since 2007. The fungus, Geomyces destructans, grows best in cold, humid conditions that are typical of many bat hibernacula. The fungus grows on, and in some cases invades, the bodies of hibernating bats and seems to result in disturbance from hibernation, causing a debilitating loss of important metabolic resources and mass deaths. Mortality rates at some hibernation sites have been as high as 90%. While there are currently no reports of Lasionycteris noctivagans mortalities as a result of white-nose syndrome, the disease continues to expand its range in North America. (Cryan, 2010; National Park Service, Wildlife Health Center, 2010)

Some more information...

Fisherman occasionally snag silver-haired bats in mid-air while casting their fishing lines.


Allison Poor (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Robert Naumann (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Baker, Rollin H. 1983. Michigan Mammals. Michigan State University Press.

Barbour, Roger W. and Wayne H. Davis. 1969. Bats of America. The University Press of Kentucky

Barclay, Robert M. 1986. Long-versus Short-range Foraging Strategies of Hoary (Lasiurus cinerus) and Silver-haired (Lasionycteris noctivagans) Bats and the Consequences for Prey Selection. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 63: 2507-15.

Barclay, Robert M., Paul A. Faure, and David R. Farr. 1988. Roosting Behavior and Roost Selection by Migrating Silver-haired Bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans). Journal of Mammology. 69: (4) 821-825.

Kurta, Allen. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. The University of Michigan Press.

Cryan, P. 2010. "White-nose syndrome threatens the survival of hibernating bats in North America" (On-line). U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center. Accessed September 16, 2010 at

National Park Service, Wildlife Health Center, 2010. "White-nose syndrome" (On-line). National Park Service, Wildlife Health. Accessed September 16, 2010 at

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Naumann, R. 1999. "Lasionycteris noctivagans" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 21, 2017 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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