Virginia Big-Eared Bat
Virginia Big-Eared Bat

This is a Virginia Big-Eared Bat, Corynorhinus townsendii. They are also called Townsend’s Big-eared Bats.  They are a species of vesper or evening bat. They are pale grey or brown with a lighter buff tan tummy.

  • Total Length: 3 to 4 inches
  • Wingspread: 11 to 12 inches
  • Tail: 2 inches
  • Weight: 0.4 ounces

They are medium sized bats. But their ears are VERY long. Their total body length is 4” with 1 ½” long ears. When they lay their ears back they come all the way to the middle of their body.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats sleep with their ears curled back so they look like ram horns.
Virginia Big-Eared Bats sleep with their ears curled back so they look like ram horns.

They rest or sleep with their ears curled back so they look like ram horns.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats extend or contract their ears as they fly.
Virginia Big-Eared Bats extend or contract their ears as they fly.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats  are very good fliers. They can fly fast, 6.4 to 12.3 mph. They can even hover.

They fly with deep flaps and short glides. When they fly slowly, they keep their ears up. They can quickly extend or contract their ears.

When they fly fast, they hold their ears parallel to their body, facing forward.

Their large pinnae* are usually in line with the body during flight; this indicates one of the roles of the pinnae is to impart lift during flight. The ears are also used to transmit sound into the bat’s external auditory meatus, effectively distinguishing between ambient noise, and the sounds of predators or prey.

Virginia Big-Eared Bat North Carolina Wildlife Profiles

*Pinnae means the outside parts of the ears, the auricle.
It comes from the Latin word for feather, wing or fin. Just one is a pinna. Pinnae is plural.
The outsides of your ears are your pinnae or auricles.

Most of these Big-Eared Bats live out west. They are very rare here in our mountains, but some can be found in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats hanging from a cave ceiling
Virginia Big-Eared Bats hanging from a cave ceiling

There is a protected colony in a small cave on Grandfather Mountain. They were discovered in 1981 and they put up a gate to protect the bats in 1986. There were only 31 bats the first time they counted them.

The Grandfather Mountain Virginia Big-Eared Bats spend the winter in a small cave near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Radio-tagged bats from this colony travel as far as Avery, Caldwell and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats have two large glandular lumps on the sides of their nose.
Virginia Big-Eared Bats have two large glandular lumps on the sides of their nose.

See the lumps on the sides of the nose? Virginia Big-Eared Bats have two large glandular lumps on the sides of their nose. What is it for?

I couldn’t find out anything except this is a way we can identify this bat.

I read about some other bats that have been studied; “females that have just given birth have a very distinctive odor. A new mother typically rubs her glandular face on her pup, and apparently uses these chemical cues and special vocalizations to locate and identify her own infant among thousands or millions of others that often are jammed together in caves.”  BATS Magazine Volume 21, Issue 2, Bat Smells: How aromas affect bat behavior by Barbara French

So maybe that has something to do with it.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats may live alone or in groups from a few dozen to hundreds of bats.
Virginia Big-Eared Bats may live alone or in groups from a few dozen to hundreds of bats.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats are sedentary bats. Some bats migrate, but these don’t. they live their entire live in caves or old mines. They hibernate deep enough, where the temperature is stable.

Sometimes you see them alone. Sometimes they are in groups from a few dozen to hundreds of bats.

In March they start to congregate together into maternity colonies somewhere with a warm constant temperature. Male bats are not invited. Baby bats are born between May and July. Each bat has only one baby, usually mid-June. Baby bats are called pups. The pup begins to fly when he is about three weeks.

Little is known regarding the habits of North Carolina’s Virginia big-eared bats. Much of the population hibernates in a small cave on Grandfather Mountain each year. The number of bats using this cave increases during late summer and fall. Mating presumably occurs here. Many of the cave’s bats depart during February and March. The females move to a maternity colony near Beech Mountain. The females give birth to a single young in June. At first, the females leave the young at the maternity colony while they feed each night. Each female recognizes her own young and nurses it until it is about two months old. The young grow quickly and can fly when about three weeks old.

Virginia Big-Eared Bat North Carolina Wildlife Profiles

When it gets cold, Virginia Big-Eared Bats puff their fur up for insulation.

This species is sensitive to disturbance. You should not bother bats if you see them. It may make them abandon their roost site and they may not be able to find another one.

Some moths make a noise to jam bat echolocation sounds so they won’t be eaten. - Virginia Big-Eared Bats
Some moths make a noise to jam bat echolocation sounds so they won’t be eaten.

Bats use echolocation. They emit sounds out to the environment and listen to the echoes. Virginia Big-Eared Bats mostly eat moths. Some moths can hear bats and make a noise to jam their echolocation sounds so they won’t be eaten.

So, Virginia Big-Eared Bats whisper. They echolocate at much lower intensities than other bats.

Scientists use a bat detector to listen to bats. A bat detector converts echolocation ultrasound signals into signals that we can hear. Virginia Big-Eared Bats whisper too quietly for a bat detector to hear.


Virginia Big-Eared Bats may also eat beetles, flies, wasps and other insects. Snakes, owls, cats, raccoons and hawks eat Virginia Big-Eared Bats.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats can live from four to ten years. Some live up to 15 to 20 years.

If you find a bat in a building, don’t touch it and don’t panic.
Open windows or doors so the bat can fly outside.
If it is in an outbuilding, leave it alone.

Virginia Big-Eared Bats