Skip to Content

Which Mammals Can Fly?

I recently saw a comment by someone who said that there were no mammals that could fly, or they wouldn’t be mammals, which I knew was incorrect. Although there are not many mammals that can fly, there is one family of mammals that can.

Bats are the only mammals that have wings and can fly. There are over 1,100 species of bats worldwide, and they can all fly. Flying squirrels, gliders, anomalures, and colugos are not capable of flight but glide from tree to tree.

If you have ever wanted to know more about how bats fly, then I have some information here you may like.

Bats Are The Only Mammals To Fly 

Over time, many animals have evolved to include aerial locomotion. Some of them have achieved this by either flying or gliding. Bats are the only mammals that fly. Others glide from tree to tree, but bats are the only mammals capable of powered flight.

If you or someone you know loves bats, check out these great bat gifts on Amazon by clicking here.

The World’s Only Flying Mammals

Have you ever wondered if any other animals fly apart from birds? If you thought of bats, then you would be correct. Bats are the only flying mammals in the world.

Two Types Of Flight

Before we continue, we have to determine the difference between the two types of flight. These are powered flight and gliding. 

Powered (True) Flight

Powered flight is also known as true flight. Most birds, insects, and bats are capable of powered flight. The flapping of their wings completes powered flight to keep them aloft.

Evolution has adapted these animals by modifying their front limbs into wings, shortening their torso, enlarging their heart and thorax, improving their vision, and lightening their bones.


Many people think that flying possums and flying squirrels can fly. This is often confusing because these animals have names that suggest they can. They do not fly but glide for short, limited distances.  

Animals that glide include:

  • Flying squirrels
  • Gliders
  • Anomalures
  • Colugos


There are two types of gliding. These are soaring and gravitational gliding. Soaring is gliding without using any power input. Many birds soar, such as eagles, and they do this by gliding into a column of air rising faster than the animal is descending.

If you want to see millions of bats simultaneously, then Texas is a fantastic place to visit.  Find out the best places to see them here.

Gravitational Gliding

If an animal uses gravitational gliding, it can direct where they want to go. An animal, such as a flying squirrel, will jump in the direction it wants to glide, although it can also use the membrane between the front and back limbs to act as a parachute.   

The only mammals that can fly using powered flight are the many species of bats. Bats are capable of powered flight, which means they can fly long distances. 

How Did Bats Get Their Name?

Bats belong to the order Chiroptera. Chiroptera comes from a Greek word meaning hand and wing. Hand in Greek is “cheir,” and the wing is “pteron.” 

Adaptations to Flight

The arm bones on the bat and four fingers are slender, lighter, and lengthened. These are the bat’s major adaptations for flight.

The wings are also covered by a thin membrane called the patagium.  The patagium is a membrane that connects the forelimbs and hind limbs. 

The membrane makes it easier for the bat to maneuver naturally and faster than most birds. The arms are used to support, spread, and manipulate the membrane. To enable the bat to fly, the forelimbs of bats developed as wings.

The thumb of the bat is not attached to the wing. The thumb remains free to cling to surfaces. This comes in especially helpful when the bat is sleeping. A fantastic thing about bats is that their hind limbs bend backward while their feet face forward. 

How do Bats Fly? 

Bats can fly because of the flexibility of their finger bones. The finger bones have a flat cross-section. They also have low calcium levels on the tips, making them flexible. The lower calcium levels also make it easier to navigate.  

The bones in bats’ wings have a lower breaking stress point than ordinary flying creatures, including birds. This enables the bat to maneuver quickly and in ways that birds and insects cannot.  

The wings are made up of elongated membranes that are pretty delicate and can tear easily. Even though this could be a problem, bats have specialized hormones. These hormones make the healing process very fast and easy for the bat.

Bats are also flexible, so their maneuverability is excellent, even through sharp angles.

Why are bats mammals?  Find out here

Can Bats Take off From the Ground?

Some species of bats can take off from the ground. However, those with longer, narrower wings will never take off from the ground.  

A large majority of bat species cannot take off from ground level. These species of bats will hang on a cliff or a tree. By doing this, they can take off from that position. When a bat is launching itself, it will drop from the hanging position before flying.  

Some bat species, such as horseshoe and vampire bats, can take off from the ground. These species descend to the ground in the food search.

These species of bats land by decelerating their speed until they stall. They will then hold onto a branch or other suitable surface before dropping lower.

Vampire bats feed on the blood of mammals. This bat usually feeds on large sleeping animals. They use their razor-sharp teeth to cut into the flesh and suck out the blood. The vampire bats have to land close to ground level to feed on the prey.

Vampire bats and other bat species that prey on terrestrial mammals or feed on flowers can also hover. 

Can Bats Walk on the Ground?

Several species of bats can move around while on the ground. The first digit on the wing of the bat is small in size but has a claw. It is similar to the human thumb.

These species use the first digit when climbing or walking on the ground. They also have stronger forelimbs and weak hind legs, which allow them to crawl on the floor successfully. 

Most species of bats that are insectivores have this adaptation. These species tend to feed on both ground and flying insects.

For this reason, they need to be able to crawl or move around on the ground while searching for food. Common vampire bats can also get around very well on the ground level.

Bat sizes and population

Among all the available species, the smallest bats are Kitti’s long-nosed varieties with wings as long as 5.91 inches. The largest of all is the giant golden-crowned flying fox. They usually grow to about 1.6 kg with wings as long as 1.7 meters. 

According to statistics, there are 1,100 species of bats globally, and of these, 40 species live in the U.S. They are small in physical size but have a large wingspan. Bats and insects and birds make up a large number of species and a large number of individuals. This is the main reason flying animals are among the most successful.

Bats evolved a long time ago. For more information on how and when they evolved, I have written this article.

Why do Bats Fly Low?

You may have seen bats flying low over your head. This is so that they can feed on insects generally at that level. Bats feed on these insects, although you may think they are coming for you.

How do Bats Navigate When Flying?

When flying at night, bats use echolocation to notice barriers and predators.  Bats use echolocation due to their speed and maneuverability while flying.     

Many people think that bats are blind, but this is not true. Bats can see almost as well as humans.

Echolocation is a mechanism where bats emit ultrasonic sounds, which moments later send echoes. When the echo returns to the bat, they can easily detect and locate an obstacle or predator.

Are Bats Becoming Extinct? 

Bats populations are drastically declining because of several factors. First and foremost, bats are not welcome in some parts of the world. 

Although they are considered signs of good fortune in many societies globally, bats have many misconceptions. Some cultures claim that they bring bad omens and diseases. Therefore, they are not protected in the right way. 

The bat’s population is highly threatened by habitat loss, climate change, and constant attacks from predators and humans. They are also affected by a deadly fungus called white-nose syndrome.

Bats are very beneficial and influential in controlling the ecosystem. Bats are excellent pollinators concerning seed dispersion, fruit dispersion, and managing and eliminating crop-destroying insects.

I recently saw a comment by someone who said that there were no mammals that could fly, or they wouldn’t be mammals, which I knew was incorrect. Although there are not many mammals that can fly, there is one family of mammals that can.

There are over 1,100 species of bats worldwide, and they can all fly. There are currently 40 species of bats in North America.

If you have ever wanted to know more about how bats fly, then I have some information here you may like.

Do bats live in the cold conditions of Alaska? Find out in this article I have written here.