Locating Chicago's bats ...

(scroll or swipe)

A peek into the habitats of Chicago's bat population.

Inspired by a question from Chicagoan Rory Keane and answered by WBEZ's Curious City, with help from researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute.


Audio story and more on Rory’s question.



Generally a forest-dwelling species, the eastern red bat was detected in multiple forest preserves in a study conducted by the Urban Wildlife Institute. Although many bats hibernate in old mines and caves in our region, the red bat migrates to warmer areas during the winter. It is named for its bright red fur.


A forest-dwelling species, evening bats roost in tree cavities and loose bark. This species is more common in the South, but it has also found a home around the Chicago area. Evening bats look similar to little brown bats, though the species’ echolocation calls are quite different.


Like the red bat, the silver-haired bat generally prefers forested habitat and often roosts in tree cavities or loose bark. Unlike red bats, female silver-haired bats live in social groups called maternity colonies during summer.


Considered to be the most widespread bat species in the U.S., hoary bats like forests, but can also be found in tree-covered residential areas and parks. Hoary bats are Chicago’s largest bat (weighing up to 1.25 ounces) and are named for their brown-and-gray mottled fur. They spend their days hanging upside down in the foliage, completely camouflaged amongst the leaves.


The smallest bat found in the Chicago area (.14 - .25 ounces, the weight of a penny), the eastern pipistrelle is typically found in open wooded areas or near water, which might explain its presence at local golf courses. Because of its small size, it can swiftly maneuver through the forest to get to its favorite foraging site. Compared to other bats in our area, the eastern pipistrelle produces the highest-pitch echolocation call.

at the Lincoln Park Zoo


The little brown bat prefers to roost in buildings and forested areas. The Urban Wildlife Institute detected little browns at just a few observation sites but, notably, the group did find some at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo! Little brown populations have been decimated by white-nose syndrome in the northeastern U.S., so this is an especially important species to monitor.


Common in urban areas, the big brown bat prefers to roost in buildings such as churches, barns, and silos. Big brown bats are a highly adaptable species, and can make a home almost anywhere. Female big brown bats are highly social and live in groups of up to several hundred, giving birth and raising pups together. Research suggests that — within their home colonies — female big brown bats have “friends” that they snuggle with on chilly days.

This presentation is based off of preliminary data gathered during an ongoing study conducted by the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute.

Bat species presented here can be found in several of the listed habitats.


Facebook Twitter Email Tumblr Google+

Special thanks to UWI researcher Liza Lehrer

and the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Sharon Dewar.


Illustrations by Erik Nelson Rodriguez


Produced by






... with help from our batty neighbors: