Murciélago is Spanish for bat. I like the word, and I like the creature.
Approximately 70 species of bats live in the Sonoran desert region, about 27 of those species live right here in the state of Arizona, more than in any other state. I live near a bat colony and note them as they occasionally fly about the neighborhood.
Bats are from the order of Chiroptera (meaning hand-wing), which describes their most unusual anatomical feature and the reason why it’s the only mammal naturally capable of true and sustained flight. In the course of working on this study I learn more about this magnificent nocturnal creature.
- A bats body is hairy while a leathery membrane makes up its wonderful wings.
- Bats are not blind though see best at night.
- They use echo-location to maneuver through space, and to help find shelter and prey.
- They have an acute sense of smell which helps in the rearing of their young in large maternity colonies. In fact, it’s the way they find their own young in the midst of hundreds of others. I find it particularly interesting that colonies include non-reproducing females that help with rearing duties.
In the lower elevations of Arizona bats mate in late Spring, maybe as early as March. In Northern Arizona bats can hibernate 5 to 8 months.
Bats are in serious decline. They are an important part of our ecosystem helping to keep populations of night-flying insects like mosquitos, in control. They disperse seeds and pollinate many plants. In the state of Arizona bats and bat colonies are protected by law.
Because bats live in the belly of Mother Earth, they symbolize death and rebirth. They are reborn every evening at dusk. The Native Americans observed them as highly social creatures with strong familial ties. While the bat is nurturing, verbal, enjoys touch, it is also shy, intelligent and gentle.
Bat medicine teaches us to release fear. Think new beginnings.