hidden treasures of Drake Bay, Costa Rica with Tracie "The Bug Lady"
Meet the Bug
Tales from the
Facts about Drake Bay, Costa Rica
Travel To Drake Bay
Drake Bay Area Map
Tips for Travelers
The Greater BullDog
Greater Fishing Bat, Noctilio leporinus, is one of the
most spectacular mammals one can hope to encounter in Drake Bay.
With pointed ears, small eyes, prominent cheeks, and large
canine teeth - these denizens of the dark bear an uncanny
resemblance to bulldogs, hence their common name Bulldog Bats.
are large bats, with an average wingspan of 60cm. They
boast bright orange fur (although shades of brown occur as
well). Perhaps their most striking feature, though, are
the greatly enlarged hind feet. Equipped with long, sharp
claws, these feet allow the bulldogs to feed on prey almost no
other bat in the world can - fish!
across the Agujitas River at night, between Aguila de Osa Inn and
Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, Gianfranco and I encounter colonies of
Bulldog Fishing Bats most nights. The Bulldogs use their acute
sonar to detect ripples on the water's surface created by small
fish. Once the bat has honed in on the fish, it will rake its
hind feet through the water, gaffing its prey.
The fish may then be eaten
while in flight or stored in its modified cheeks and eaten later at
a feeding perch. If the bat should accidentally tumble into
the water while hunting, they do swim quite well. Once the bat
reaches the shore, it will climb up the nearest tree or vertical
surface until it is high enough to become airborne again.
photographs of the Bulldog Fishing Bats featured here were taken at a
feeding perch, a large tree, near the suspension bridge that spans the
Agujitas River. Gian and I have been observing the Bulldogs
at this same perch for several years.
On nights when
the ocean is calm, the bats will hunt saltwater fish in the bay,
as well as the river. Studies have shown that a single bat may
consume up to 40 fish a night. Most of these fish measure between
2 to 8 cm in length.
also eat insects, shrimp, crabs, and even frogs. They will hunt
prey overland too. Flying insects, which are caught with the wings
may actually make up more than half the diet at certain times of year,
particularly in rainy season.
to C. Brandon in Costa Rica Natural History Noctilio leporinus
bats adapt quite well to captivity:
"Within a day or two of
capture it will spontaneously learn to eat from a dish of fish or
mealworms placed in the cage. Taming is also rapid, and within a
few days the bats can be held in the hand without trying to
escape....These bats are also easy to train for experimental work.
They quickly learn to do a variety of tasks."
John Kricher, in his
wonderfully informative book A Neotropical Companion recounts
how he once shared a hotel room with a Bulldog Fishing Bat his
colleague captured to bring to the U.S. for study. The bat spent the
evening dining on a bucket of fish while hanging form a picture
frame in the bathroom. "The fact that the bat reeked of fish and
strong musk, plus the constant sound of fish bones being ground up",
said Kricher, "made for fitfull sleeping that night." Captive bats
have lived 11.5 years.
During the day, Bulldog
Fishing Bats roost in caves, the crevices of rocks, hollow trees,
and sometimes buildings. Colonies may number several hundred bats,
although we have never found such large groups in Drake Bay.
2005 Travellers' Wildlife Guides Costa Rica
Janzen, D. 1983 Costa Rican Natural History
University of Chicago Press
Kricher, J. 1989 A Neotropical Companion
Princeton University Press
LaVal, R. & Rodriguez, B. 2002 Murcielagos de Costa Rica/Bats
Wainwright, M. 2002 The Natural History of Costa
Rican Mammals Zona Tropical
Wilson, D. 1997 Bats in Question Smithsonian