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deni's avatar

What kind of bat did we see/hear while camping near Flagstaff, AZ?

Asked by deni (22607points) August 6th, 2014

Hi Fluther! Been a while!

This summer my boyfriend and I were camping at Sunset Crater, Arizona, just north of Flagstaff. It’s a real weird volcanic area with black sand dunes, lava rock everywhere, and calderas peppering the landscape if you could see it from above. So we were camping on National Forest land just literally outside the park boundary and as soon as it got dark we started hearing this noise—in terms of animals I thought at first it was either a bear, or a cow or moose or something. It was a deep bellow. Then, thinking that unlikely probably just to comfort myself, I thought oh! Maybe it’s an owl! I know owls can make crazy noises and the sound didn’t seem to be moving much. It would happen every couple minutes maybe. We ignored it figuring it was an owl.

Well, when it got dark it became louder and more frequent. Curiosity was getting the best of us and plus the moon was bright so we went for a walk and took our headlamps. We could tell we were getting closer to the noise and also we could hear a bird/bat flying around above us and chirping. It turned out to be a bat, obviously, several times it flew quite close to us. It was pretty big. But this sound it was making was not the usual bat sound, that little chirping that it regularly does. Every 20 or 30 chirps it made this OTHER sound, the sound we had been hearing. Like a deep, hollow burp! Or a gong or something loud and ridiculous! I have NO IDEA what type of bat could make a “noise” like this but i am DYING to know. This was a month ago and I have tried to google crazy bat sounds but nothing has successfully come up that has helped me figure it out at all!

If you have any idea what this could be I would LOVE to know especially if youve heard it before too! I am real intrigued.

Thanks :)

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9 Answers

dappled_leaves's avatar

Assuming it was the bat making these sounds, you might have been hearing social calls. Apparently these occur with every 10 or 20 chirps in some species. I’m having trouble finding examples online that can be listened to (aside from the one in the Wikipedia article). I found one journal article which has some good animations showing bat interactions with the soundtrack of social calls. I might be able to get that to you via email, if you PM me – though they don’t sound exactly like what you described.

As to which species… there are 28 species of bat in Arizona, so I’m not sure that can be pinned down easily without seeing it. But if you’re keen, see if there are any nearby university profs who study bats, and send a query by email. They would probably know.

rojo's avatar

The Greater Western Mastiff Bat is one of the bigger ones in the area.

Did it look like one of these?

Here is a wiki page on bat species identification that might help with the description of the sounds

stanleybmanly's avatar

You know the “chirps” are almost certainly the bats’ method of transmitting signals for echo location. Bats use their “radar” to hunt flying insects, and they’re damned good at it.

deni's avatar

@stanleybmanly. I do know that which is how we knew these sounds were coming from a bat and not a bird or owl. But this infrequent sound, the deep bellow, is what id never heard before it was really weird…

snowberry's avatar

Deep sounds travel farther than high sounds. That’s how elephants communicate even though they are far apart. So it might be the bats communicating with each other, rather than feeding. As for what species, I have no idea.

deni's avatar

@snowberry we were thinking the same thing. It was just such a bizarre sound tho!

deni's avatar

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!: I was sitting at the kitchen table re-reading one of my favorite books (The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey) which was of course set in the desert and at one point in passing he describes a bird that is flying around at sunset and he says something about how when the males are displaying, they will woosh down very close to the ground and when they swoop back up it gives off this crazy honking sound. I literally looked up at my boyfriend with huge eyes and said HOLY SHIT! THIS IS OUR BIRD/BAT! So, IT WAS A NIGHTHAWK!!! I looked it up, listened to sounds, and it chirps sort of like a bat, is active at night, and makes that wooshing sound every so often when it drops down near the ground. I can’t believe that book solved this mystery for me. I am so delighted!

rojo's avatar

Do they have conspicuous white bands on the wings?

deni's avatar

@rojo They sure do!

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