The Soprano Pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) is a common species of British Bat. It’s also found throughout much of Europe, as well as parts of Asia and Africa.
It was once considered a subspecies of the Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). Genetic studies have since shown it to be a distinct species.
This in-depth guide will discuss;
- Physical characteristics
- Where they live
- What they eat
- How they breed
- Threats and conservation
- When and where to see them
|Common Name||Soprano Pipistrelle|
|Scientific Name||Pipistrellus pygmaeus|
|Length||3.5cm – 4.5cm|
|Wingspan||20cm – 25cm|
|Weight||3g – 8g|
|Colour||Medium to dark brown body, even darker on the face|
|Habitat||Woodland, farmland, grassland, urban areas|
|Diet||Aquatic flies, mosquitos, invertebrates and midges|
The Common and Soprano Pipistrelle were only identified as separate species in 1999.
What Does the Soprano Pipistrelle Look Like?
Soprano Pipistrelles are small bats, with an average body length of 3.5-4.5 cm (1.4-1.8 in) and a wingspan of 20-25 cm (7.9-9.8 in). Their weight ranges from 3-8 grams (0.1-0.3 oz). The fur on their back is reddish-brown, while the underside is pale grey or buff. Their wings are broad and short relative to their body. This is an adaptation for agile flight in cluttered environments.
The Soprano Pipistrelle species of bat is so small it can fit inside a matchbox
What Does Their Echolocation Sound Like?
Most sounds produced by the Soprano Pipistrelle are above the range of human hearing. The only exception might be their social calls which some children might be able to hear.
A bat detector can pick up their echolocation calls between 45kHz – 80kHz.
Where Do Soprano Pipistrelle Bats Live?
The Soprano Pipistrelle is native to Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. Its range appears to be expanding northwards due to climate change. Populations becoming established in areas that used to be too cold.
Soprano Pipistrelles can be found in various habitats, including;
- Deciduous and mixed woodlands
- Wetlands, and
- Along rivers and watercourses
They are also common in urban and suburban areas, where they roost in tree holes, bat boxes, and buildings.
What Do Soprano Pipistrelles Eat?
Insects are the Soprano Pipistrelles’ main food source with a preference for;
- Beetles, and
The composition of their diet can vary season to season. What they eat very much depends on the availability of prey.
Soprano Pipistrelles typically emerge from their roosts at dusk to forage. They forage in the first few hours after sunset and the last few hours before sunrise.
They use a variety of hunting strategies, including;
- Hawking (catching insects in mid-air), and
- Gleaning (picking insects off surfaces)
Echolocation plays a critical role in prey detection. Soprano Pipistrelles emit high-frequency calls that bounce off objects. This allows them to navigate and locate prey in complete darkness. They are also known to engage in social foraging, cooperating with other bats to find food.
Despite being so small, Soprano Pipistrelles can eat up to 3,000 insects a night. They can even catch their prey with their tails!
How Do They Breed?
The mating season for soprano pipistrelles occurs in late summer and early autumn. Males and females engage in swarming behaviour, gathering in large numbers around potential roost sites.
Gestation and Birth
After mating, the gestation period lasts for approximately six to eight weeks. Females give birth to a single pup (sometimes two) between late May and July. They often form nursery colonies, where several pregnant females roost together.
Development and Maturation
Pups grow quickly and are able to fly at about three weeks of age. They begin foraging on their own at around four weeks old.
Soprano Pipistrelles reach sexual maturity at one year of age.
Their average lifespan is 4-5 years. Although some individuals have lived over 10 years in the wild.
When and Where to They Hibernate?
Soprano Pipistrelles become less active during October. By the time winter arrives, they are in full hibernation. They prefer to hibernate in buildings and bat boxes where they can take advantage of the warmth and shelter.
When temperatures start to warm up again around March time, they emerge from their hibernation roosts. By May, they’re fully active again.
Conservation and Threats
The IUCN Red List categorizes the Soprano Pipistrelle as a species of Least Concern. This is due to its wide distribution and presumed large population. However, local conservation statuses may vary, and some populations are experiencing declines.
The main threats facing Soprano Pipistrelles include;
- Habitat loss and fragmentation – reducing the availability of roosting and foraging sites
- The use of pesticides and pollutants – reducing the number of insects they can feed on.
- Climate change – altering the distribution of the species and availability of food
- Artificial light pollution – disrupting the bats’ natural behaviour and foraging patterns.
Efforts to conserve Soprano Pipistrelle populations include;
- Legal protection
- Habitat restoration and preservation
- Bat-friendly agricultural practices, and
- The installation of bat boxes and artificial roosts
Public education and awareness campaigns encourage people to take steps to protect them.
When and Where to See Them
The Soprano Pipistrelle is the most common bat in the UK. You can see them all over the UK apart from northern Scotland.
They’re most active between April and September so this is the best time to see them. Have a walk around your garden or your local area at dusk. Chances are, you’ll see them flying around above your head, especially if you’re near water, trees and hedgerows.