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Home / Soprano Pipistrelle

Pipistrellus pygmaeus

Description and identification

Soprano pipistrelles, along with common pipistrelles, are the bats that you are most likely to see at dusk in the UK. In wooded areas near water the soprano pipistrelle is usually the most abundant bat species.

Although it has a paler, more rounded face and is typically slightly smaller, the soprano pipistrelle looks very much like its ‘common’ relative, although it does typically smell a bit more! The soprano pipistrelle is more likely to be seen hunting for food over water than the common pipistrelle. You can usually tell the two species apart by their echolocation calls, with the peak echolocation frequency of the soprano pipistrelle at 55 kHz, the highest of the three UK pipistrelles. However, due to the variability of the calls made by each species depending on where they are (they often call lower when in the open and higher when in a cluttered environment like a wood), then sometimes the calls can overlap.

Status and distribution

The soprano pipistrelle is a common and widespread bat species, and is found across all of Great Britain and Ireland and in Scotland is more numerous than common pipistrelle. In Europe it is found in Norway – further north than the common pipistrelle. Although historically as with all of our bat species, there are signs that the population is starting to increase again. The latest report from the Bat Conservation Trust shows that there has been a 58.9% increase in numbers on field surveys since recording began in 1999, the baseline year for monitoring.

The soprano pipistrelle is widely distributed and has been recorded in 33 of Nottinghamshire’s total of 36 hectads since 2010.

Roosts

Soprano pipistrelles are often encountered in buildings where they roost in crevices, such as under roof coverings, in soffits and fascias, or under hanging tiles. Females will gather in large groups (often larger than any other UK bat species) to give birth their single pup. Soprano pipistrelle colonies will often have two or more roosts and will often return to the same roosts year after year, which means they can be monitored. There are several maternity roosts exceeding 400 breeding females in the county, and a small number exceeding 700. There are also several bat box schemes which support good numbers of this species. Bat boxes often also support single bats, although these can be found in a variety of places; in buildings and other structures, and in trees.

Hibernating soprano pipistrelle have been found in the county in cavity walls and cracks and crevices in buildings. They have also been found in holes in trees and are regularly recorded in bat boxes.

Food and foraging

The soprano pipistrelle eats a variety of small insects, including aquatic midges and mayflies. It is a species strongly associated with water and woodland, and can sometimes be seen hunting in woodlands up to an hour before sunset. They are also often observed feeding under tree branches and overhanging vegetation.