Spectral Bat

Spectral Bat

Great false vampire bat, Linnaeus's false vampire bat

Vampyrum spectrum
Population size
Life Span
5.5 yrs
134-189 g
135-147 mm
0.7-1 m

The Spectral bat is a large, carnivorous leaf-nosed bat found in the Americas. It is the largest bat species native to the New World and the largest carnivorous bat in the world. It has a robust skull and teeth, with which it delivers a powerful bite to kill its prey. Its wings, though large in an absolute sense, are short relative to its body size. Each of the Spectral bat's thumbs has a large, recurved claw that is grooved, similar to those of cats. Its back fur is reddish-brown, long, and soft, while its belly fur is shorter and paler. The forearm is furred on the half closer to the body but naked on the half closer to the wrist and fingers.


Spectral bats are found in southern Mexico, through Central America, and into South America. They live in tropical rainforests and may occasionally occur in deciduous forests, pastures, and orchards.

Spectral Bat habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Spectral bats are social and roost in colonies of up to 5 individuals; these usually consist of an adult male and female, a nursing pup, and a juvenile male and female. Colonies generally roost in tree hollows, though some individuals may roost in caves. Spectral bats are nocturnal and usually leave their roosts at dusk to forage for prey. They use echolocation to navigate, creating short pulses of ultrasound at relatively low frequencies; their echolocation characteristics are suited for maneuvering around obstacles while flying low to the ground. The foraging style of these bats has been compared to owls; they likely use their agile and maneuverable wings to hover as they pluck prey items off the ground or tree branches. They stalk the prey and then land on it from above, securing the prey by hooking it with their sharp thumb claws. Spectral bats kill their prey by delivering a forceful bite to the skull. Males usually carry prey back to their roosts to feed females and their offspring.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Spectral bats are exclusively carnivorous creatures, consuming birds, rodents, and other species of bat. Additionally, they consume some insects such as beetles.

Mating Habits

1 pup

Spectral bats are monogamous and form long-lasting pair bonds. They are seasonal breeders, with females giving birth at the end of the dry season or the beginning of the rainy season. The litter size is one pup and the mother is reportedly very attentive and gentle with her offspring. The male is often in attendance as well and will frequently sleep with both the female and their young completely wrapped up in his wings.


Population threats

Spectral bats are threatened by habitat destruction and are locally rare within their range. They may also be intentionally persecuted by humans; in Trinidad, Spectral bats are sometimes thought to be ghosts, and locals will seek out and destroy their roosts.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Spectral bat total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Spectral bat is the only member of its genus and its closest living relative is the Big-eared woolly bat.
  • The Spectral bat is one of two known species of the bat where the males provide parental care, the other being the Yellow-winged bat.
  • Relative to its size, the bite force of the Spectral bat is stronger than any Carnivoran.
  • It has been recorded that Spectral bats are attracted to the distress calls of smaller bats while hunting. They also prefer prey that roost in groups and have a strong odor, which may aid in detection; some of these include cuckoos, trogons, motmots, and especially favored prey, Groove-billed ani.
  • The wings of the Spectral bat are wide and create a large surface area. Their structure allows the bat to take flight in confined spaces and to carry heavy prey items, despite its size.


1. Spectral Bat on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectral_bat
2. Spectral Bat on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22843/22059426

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