Adult and juvenile Noctule bat

Common noctule bats help their young find a roost — but don’t share feeding tips. Credit: Les Stocker/Getty

Animal behaviour

Young bats rely on Mum for real-estate advice

Offspring are shown to the best bat boxes and tree holes, but receive no assistance when it comes to self-catering.

Female bats help their offspring find a cosy place to rest — but when the youngsters want a meal, they’re on their own.

Bats’ small size and nocturnal habits mean relatively little is known about their parenting. To learn more, Simon Ripperger at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin and his colleagues attached miniature tracking sensors to 60 common noctule bats (Nyctalus noctula) belonging to a colony in one of the city’s forests.

The scientists found that when young bats moved to a new roost site, they stayed in close contact with their mothers. Mothers sometimes made repeated flights between old and new roost sites to ‘herd’ their offspring to the right location — the first time wild bats have been recorded guiding their young to roost.

But young bats searching for food were not observed with their mothers any more often than with other tagged bats, indicating that parents practice tough love on hungry offspring. The authors suggest that this might be because young bats can find food by eavesdropping on any bat.