An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
Tricolored bat by James Kiser
Description: One of Kentucky’s two smallest bats, this species barely reaches 3½ inches in length and has a wingspan of just over 9 inches. The fur color is variable, but typically is a reddish brown to yellowish brown, slightly lighter on the belly. Its back fur is unique among that of Kentucky bats, being tricolored -- gray at the base, tan in the middle, and dark-tipped. The wing membranes are blackish, but the skin covering the larger wing bones, including the forearm, is flesh colored.
Range: Tricolored bats are widespread across the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, south into Central America, extending west into the central Great Plains.
Kentucky Occurrence Summary: This bat occurs commonly across Kentucky in summer and during migration, and nearly every cave across the state harbors at least a few hibernating individuals.
Distribution in Kentucky: See map
Habitat and Life History: These tiny bats hibernate in a variety of sites including mines, rock shelters, and quarries, but they use caves most frequently. They are typically found hanging singly from the ceiling or along a wall. These bats prefer relatively warmer and more humid portions of caves for hibernation. They often have water droplets condensed on their fur that can make them sometimes appear white when a light is shined on them. Although most summer roosting sites are unknown, this species is thought to roost primarily in high tree foliage and in hollow trees. In Kentucky, a few small maternity colonies have been observed under bridges. One to two pups are born to each during June. Males likely roost in trees during summer. Tricolored bats feed almost entirely on minute flying insects that they capture mostly along woodland edges, as well as along waterways near forested areas.
Threats: The main threat to this species is white-nose syndrome, a devastating disease found in North America that is caused by a “cold-loving” fungus. It has caused unprecedented mortality in some of our hibernating bat species like the tricolored bat, especially in the northeastern U.S.