The Lesser Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), is a type of European bat related to but smaller than its cousin, the Greater Horseshoe Bat. The species gets its name from its distinctive horseshoe-shaped nose.
The Lesser Horseshoe Bat is one of the world's smallest bats, weighing only 5 to 9 grams, with a wingspan of 192-254 mm and a body length of 35-45 mm. It has strong feet that it uses to grasp rocks and branches, and can see well in spite of its small eyes. Like most bats, Lesser Horseshoe Bats live in colonies and hunt their prey by echolocation, emitting ultrasound from specialized round pads in their mouth.
The base of its fur, which is soft and fluffy, is light grey in colour, with dorsal side fur smoky brown and the ventral side grey, with the exception of juvenile bats which are entirely dark grey. Ears and wing membranes are a light greyish-brown.
When hunting they are quick and agile, often flying within five metres of the ground while avoiding contact with bushes and shrubs. The Lesser Horseshoe Bat eats small insects, most of which are gleaned from stones and branches. Their favorite types of prey include flies, moths, and spiders.
Lesser Horseshoe Bats mate in the autumn. Females give birth to one pup, normally between mid-June and the beginning of July. Pups weigh around 1.8 grams at birth, opening their eyes after around 10 days and becoming independent at six to seven weeks of age. The bats hibernate during the winter months in dark caves, mines, old buildings, and sometimes in cellars.
The Lesser Horseshoe Bat lives in warmer regions in foothills and highland, particular wooded areas or areas of limestone. In summer its habitats have been recorded up to 1160m above sea level, and up to 2000m in the winter, with the highest known nursery roost at 950m. The species are sedentary, with the average movement between summer and winter roosts between 5 and 10 kilometers, although the longest recorded distance is 153 kilometers.
Its UK distribution can be found on the National Biodiversity Network website.
This species is in decline due to a number of factors, including the disturbance or destruction of roosts, changes in agricultural practices (such as the increased use of insecticides, which reduce prey availability) and the loss of suitable foraging habitats.