Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat

(Tadarida brasiliensis)

Brazilian free-tailed bats by John MacGregor 
Brazilian free-tailed bats by John MacGregor

This bat is a medium-sized bat, typically reaching about 4 inches in length with a wingspan of about 12 inches. The free-tailed bat is so named because the tail protrudes noticeably beyond the membrane that stretches between the tail and hind legs. It is the only bat in the eastern United States that has this trait. These bats are medium to dark brown in color, slightly lighter on the belly. Their ears are broad and rounded. Toe hairs are very long and stiff.

Range:  This species occurs widely across Central and South America, extending north into the United States from southern Oregon, northern Utah, southeastern Nebraska, central Arkansas, northern Alabama, and South Carolina. Vagrant records have been reported locally across the eastern United States to northern Illinois. 

Kentucky Occurrence Summary:  It is believed that this bat may have occurred commonly in Kentucky at some time in the past, but the only recent record is of an individual collected at Murray, Calloway County, in 1971. The species is to be expected only as an occasional vagrant here.

Distribution in Kentucky:  See Map

Habitat and Life History: The Brazilian (or Mexican) free-tailed bat is a highly colonial cave bat that has adapted to human structures, where many now roost. In some parts of the southern United States the species is active year round, roosting in buildings, under bridges, and in caves; many also migrate southward into Mexico and Central America. Several caves in Texas harbor millions of these bats during the summer months. Free-tailed bats forage on a variety of flying insects especially small moths and beetles.