SLIT-FACED BATS – Nycteridae



Slit-faced bats are small to medium in size. Head and body length is 1.6 to 3.7 inches (4 to 9.3 centimeters), and adults weigh 0.2 to 1.2 ounces (6 to 36 grams). Also called hollow-faced bats, the feature that gives slit-faced bats their name is a deep groove that runs from their nostrils to a pit in the middle of their forehead. The dent is hidden by fur, which makes it hard to see.

Species of slit-faced bats have large, oval ears and their wings are broad. Slit-faced bats range in color from orange, brown, and red to gray. These bats also have a distinctive feature among mammals at the end of their tail. The long tail, completely enclosed within a membrane, ends in a T-shaped tip.


Slit-faced bats are found throughout most of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Madagascar. Most species are found in Africa.


Some species of slit-faced bats live in woodland savanna or dry country, and others live in rainforests in Africa or in Southeast Asia.


A slit-faced bat’s diet depends upon the species. Most species of these bats feed primarily on a variety of arthropods (animals that have jointed bodies and limbs), such as moths, butterflies, beetles, crickets, centipedes, scorpions, and spiders. Some bats, the larger slit-faced bats, will also eat small vertebrates (animals with a backbone), such as frogs, birds, fish, other bats, and mice.


Like all bats, these bats are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. Slit-faced bats also use echolocation (eck-oh-lohKAY-shun), the detection of an object by means of reflected sound. It is not known how much they depend upon echolocation to catch their prey (animals hunted for food). The echolocation calls of these bats are low in intensity, or energy, and brief. Usually the calls last only a millisecond or less.

As well as echolocation, it appears that these bats depend upon sound to find food. Their large ears are apparently used to listen for the low-frequency sounds of prey-generated movements, such as the sound of an insect scuffling along the ground or calls the insects may make. Slit-faced bats sometimes catch their prey in the air, but primarily snatch their prey from a surface, such as a leaf or branch.

The broad wings of slit-faced bats enable them to fly slowly and hover, then pluck insects off ground or vegetation surfaces. When bats, such as the large slit-faced bat, catch and kill larger prey such as small vertebrates, they carry them off to their feeding perch. These bats can hunt either lying in wait on their perches or from slow, continuous flight low to the ground. When they eat insects, they typically drop their wings and legs.

Like all bats, slit-faced bats are active in the night hours and they roost (settle or rest) during the day hours. Most species shelter alone, in pairs, or in small family groups or colonies (group of animals of the same type living together). Roosting sites for slit-faced bats are diverse, and may include hollow trees, dense foliage, rocky outcrops, caves, buildings, ruins, abandoned wells, and porcupine and aardvark burrows.

Slit-faced bats have one offspring per year, typically at the beginning of the rainy season. Female large slit-faced bats leave their young behind in the roost when they set out at night to hunt. They return several times throughout the night to feed their young.


There is no known special relationship between slit-faced bats and people.


The IUCN lists the Javan slit-faced bat and the Ja slit-faced bat as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. Three other species are listed as Near Threatened, not currently threatened, but may become so.