Grey Long-eared

Grey Long-eared bats (Plecotus austriacus) are medium sized bats. The ears are nearly as long as the body but are not always obvious; when at rest they curl their ears back like rams horns, or tuck them away completely under their wings leaving only the pointed inner lobe of the ear (the tragus) visible. It can be very difficult to distinguish the rare Grey Long-eared from the more common Brown Long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus).

The Grey Long-eared bat is a southern European species which has only been found in southern England.

flight & ultrasound

This species emerges in darkness and is a very skilful flier like the Brown Long-eared. Long-eared bats are woodland animals and often hunt by picking insects off foliage rather than catching them in flight. As you might expect, their huge ears are related to this hunting method. The echolocation pulses produced by these bats are very quiet and this is thought to help with finding insects on foliage as well as not warning moths of the presence of the bat. Sometimes they do not bother to use echolocation but can listen for the tiny sounds that a moth's wings make as the moth warms up, as its ears are specially attuned to these noises.


As with other species, Long-eared bat breeding colonies gather in roosts during April and May. Generally numbers are quite low, averaging about 20 adults but colonies of up to 100 are known. Males are often found in these roosts and are obviously tolerated by the females. The single baby is born in June and is able to fly by late July.

summer roosts

Long-eared bats are most often found in older houses with large open roof voids which allow the bats to fly around in the roof. Bats can be found in these roosts throughout the year, though numbers are higher in the summer. Long-eared bats generally form small and quiet colonies of about 20 animals and often the first a householder knows about them is when a visit to the loft reveals a cluster of tiny faces peering down from a corner of the rafters. As well as using the roof void, the bats will tuck themselves away behind rafters, so they may not always be seen. A favourite roosting place is on or above the ridge beam of the roof and a line of droppings beneath is often a good indication of their presence.

winter roosts

In winter Long-eared bats may still be found in roofs in small numbers and some are seen in underground sites such as caves, mines and cellars.

Head and Body Length 41 - 58 mm
Forearm Length 37 - 45 mm
Wingspan 255 -  300 mm
Weight 7 - 14 g
Colour Generally larger and greyer than Brown Long-eared but can be confused with juveniles of the latter. Face is often darker with a blackish mask.
Life Cycle
Mating Period
Maternity Colonies Late spring.
Young: usually 1 born mid to end of June.
Colony Size 10 - 30 females.
Longevity 15 years
UK Status Rare.
Habitat and Food  
Summer Roosts Buildings, sometimes visible on roof beams or hidden away in cracks and cavities.
Winter Roosts Caves, cellars, mines.
Feeding Habitat
Food Moths, diptera, small beetles.