Atlas of Maltese Mammals Project – Bats

Atlas of Maltese Mammals Project – Bats

The most common Maltese Mammal you can encounter in the archipelago is the bat, which is part of the order Chiroptera. They represent around 50% of the Maltese indigenous terrestrial mammals. You can encounter 9 species in the archipelago, plus 4 other species that migrate to the island, or just come during winter.

One of the bat species that you can find in Malta is the Lesser Horse-Shoe Bat (Rhinilophus Hipposideros minimus), which is a small insectivorous bat. As they are one of the smallest types of bat, they are the most vulnerable ones. They are agile and quick while hunting, and do so by flying a few metres above the ground, emitting ultrasound. Their preys are small insects, which they catch from branches or stones, like butterflies, spiders, flies or mosquitos.

The Lesser Horse-Shoe Bat is known to prefer a warm climate, living mostly in limestone or wooded areas. You can find them in caves but also inside buildings, where they hibernate during winter. Their way of sleeping makes them recognizable, hanging upside-down wrapped in their wings. They live in colonies and are sedentary.

The Lesser Horse-Shoe Bat is so-called because of its noseleaf which is the shape of a horseshoe. They are not the only bat species to have this characteristic. Their cousin, the Greater Horseshoe Bat has it too, but they are much larger than the Lesser Horse-Shoe Bat. Nevertheless, if there were sights of the Greater Horse-Shoe bat in the past, it has not been seen in Malta during the last 40 years.

If you encounter such bats hanging from the ceiling, on beams, or in a cellar, especially from November to March please try not to disturb them. The only heat of your body will awake them but the lack of energy and of food will make them die.

The bats, like most Maltese Mammals, are protected by European and Maltese Law.

The National Museum of Natural History is gathering information on sightings of mammals on the Maltese islands from 2020.  All the data (sightings, photographs…) will be listed in the first Atlas of Maltese Mammals. The exact location of the sightings, dead or alive, along with a photograph of the specimen if possible would help to have a better overview of the status and distribution of the Maltese mammal’s fauna.

The terrestrial species are:  Algerian Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus) Etruscan Shrew (Suncus etruscus) Sicilian Shrew (Crocidura sicula calypso), all bat species, Wild Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), the four rodents, and the Weasel (mustela nivalis).

The museum is also preparing a map to be introduced in the Mammals Atlas of the Maltese Islands, to show the presence and if possible the abundance of every species of wild mammals in the Maltese islands. You can send your records of sightings and photographs on the museum facebook page (National Museum of Natural History, Mdina MALTA) or by email to john.j.borg@gov.mt