Alien Earthlings

in Drake Bay, Costa Rica



Tracie "The Bug Lady"  invites you  on an out  of this world  walk on...
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Discover the hidden treasures of Drake Bay,  Costa Rica with Tracie "The Bug Lady"


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The Greater BullDog

Fishing Bat

Noctilio leporinus

Greater Bulldog Fishing Bats - Noctilio leporinus



The 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. 

Bulldogs 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! 

Greater Bulldog Fishing Bats - Noctilio leporinusCanoeing 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.  

Greater Bulldog Bat - Noctilio leporinus 

Greater Bulldog Bat - Noctilio leporinusGianfranco's 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.

Bulldogs will also eat insects, shrimp, crabs, and even frogs.  They will hunt prey overland too.  Flying insects, which are caught on the wing may actually make up more than half the diet at certain times of year, particularly in rainy season.

According 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."

Greater Bulldog Bat feeding - Noctilio leporinus 
Greater Bulldog Bat feeding on a fish - Noctilio leporinus

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.



Beletsky, L.  2005  Travellers' Wildlife Guides Costa Rica  Interlink Publishing

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  Editorial INBio

Wainwright, M.  2002  The Natural History of Costa Rican Mammals  Zona Tropical

Wilson, D.  1997  Bats in Question  Smithsonian Institution Press


Mammals of the Osa Peninsula

Mammal Files

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Brazilian Long-nosed Bats

Greater Bulldog Fishing Bats

Tent-making Bats

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Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth

Kinkajous - Potos flavus

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Northern Tamandua - Tamandua mexicana

Central American Woolly Opossum - Caluromys derbianus




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