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Bats and Echolocation – How They Use Sound

Bats don’t use eyesight to let them know where they are going; they use echolocation, a noise that bats make when they are flying around. Humans cannot hear this sound because it is too high in frequency, so our ears don’t pick it up.

When it comes to bats trying to figure out where to go or how to get out of a situation, they make a high-pitch sound. The sound will then bounce off any objects that would be in the way of the soundwave, and then it would return to the bat’s ears that are finely tuned to recognize their own unique calls. When this happens, it tells the bat where it can go without flying into anything.

What Bats Use Echolocation For

Bats also use echolocation to catch their food at night. Due to bats having very poor eyesight, they count solely on their echolocation to get them to their food. When bats are flying around at night during feeding time, you will see them flying in circles due to using their echolocation and trying to figure out where the bugs are so they can swoop down and get their next meal. A fun fact to know is that some bats will use their voice box when it comes to the bats making the sound, and others will simply click their tongues to make the sound. When it comes to bats, they are generally emitted through the mouth, but a few bats make the echolocation through their nostrils.
When it comes to bats and echolocation, they can either set off a high-pitched sound or set off a low-pitched sound. When it comes to a high-pitched sound, it gives the bat lots of detail, but over a short distance. When it comes to a low-frequency sound, this gives less detail but over a more extended range.

Narrowband vs. Broadband Calls

Bats and echolocation are put into two different groups; one is called narrowband. The narrowband calls are the most constant frequency from the bats. In contrast, broadband calls sweep an extensive range of frequencies in a short time. Broadband calls are used to scan the area where narrowband sounds are used to identify and provide information on potential prey. Once the target has been detected, then the sounds will become more frequent, and they will get faster and faster and become very intense.

Bats do not use their echolocation all the time. Since bats cannot let out a sound and wait for it to come back to them, they must do one at a time. Some bats can do both make their sound and also lesson at the same time. These are horseshoe bats, and they do what is called Doppler shift compensation.

Bats Voice Boxes

bats voice boxes

Not only do bats use sound as a means to get around, but they can also use their voice boxes as well. When it comes to their voice box, it is much different than ours. They have a large voice box, and it is reinforced with bone. This reinforcement allows a high tension on the vocal cords to be maintained and kept safe. When it comes to the bats making their sound, it is concentrated in beams directed through a gap in the upper incisors of most species. Yes, not all bats are the same; you are right. One example of a bat that is just a little bit different is the Horseshoe bat. When it comes to these bats, they have a flap of skin over their nose to conduct their sounds. When they do this and send out their echolocation sounds, it will travel for 30 feet. Crazy!! Once the bats have set their sound, their ears will relax as they wait for their returning echo to let them know where they are a d what might be in front of them.

Bats that Don’t Use Echolocation

There are only a few bats that do not use it when it comes to echolocation, and those bats are fruit bats and the flying foxes. But don’t let them fool you; they still find their food just as well. They mostly use their vision due to their having excellent eyesight; they will also use their scent and smell out the fruit they are looking for. There is one exception, though when it comes to these bats, one type of bat is the only exception is the Egyptian fruit bat, which will use its echolocation to find its way around caves due to having poor eyesight.

Baby Bats and Echolocation

Bat FactsWhen it comes to the babies, a lot of questions come up. Do they learn the sound, are they born with it? These are great questions for sure. When it comes to newborn bats, they end up picking up on the echolocation very rapidly. When a bat starts to make the echolocation sounds, they are about four weeks old. Young, right? When it comes to the babies, the mother will use smell and echolocation sounds to find her baby. This is not an easy task because so many babies in one area, but the mother does end up finding her baby by using her echolocation sounds to locate her pup.
The bat’s echolocation sounds can travel upwards of over 100 feet. When it comes to them having to listen for the sound to bounce back from objects, they can only hear a little over 50 feet. This is because they need to hear their echolocation come back to them so they don’t fly into anything or so they can locate their food.

Why Bat’s Need Echolocation

When it comes to bats and their echolocation sounds, they are essential in a bats life. If they did not have their echolocation sounds, then most of the bats would die due to not locating food to eat or the strength to service during the winter months. Also, bats need their echolocation to find where their pups or babies are located to take care of them. Another reason bats need to have echolocation is so they can communicate with other bats as well. Bats are very social animals, so they will communicate with each other through echolocation as well. So the next time you are out in your yard at night and see bats flying around, know that they are most likely using their echolocation to locate food. The echolocation also makes sure they don’t fly into anything and allows them to communicate with each other. And remember that bats don’t like to be alone, so they will use echolocation to make sure they are still with their colony as well.