Common/Egyptian slit-faced bat (Nycteris thebaica)

Identification pointers

The large ears (28-37 mm) are conspicuous and this species is by far the most common of the genus in South Africa. A light brown colour above with creamy white below and light wing membranes can make it noticeable when foraging, which they do in a fluttering but extremely agile fashion. Forearm: 37-51 mm; mass 7-15 grams.

Roosting habits

They are hollow roosting and may spend the day in road culverts, tree hollows (especially hollow baobabs), in open basements, under raised houses, aardvark burrows, caves, mine addits and sometimes temporarily vacant buildings or structures. Colony sizes are usually small, numbering only up to a few dozen, but they commonly reach hundreds when suitable roosting space like a cave is available.

At night they tend to rest in a different shelter for short periods while devouring a captured prey. This resting shelter is called a night roost and may include any overhanging structures such as thatched lapas or verandas. The night roosts of this species are clearly marked by the wings of moths and other insects scattered across the ground, as they devour the soft bodies and discard the insect wings. As a result of this habit their diet can be easily studied.


Females give birth once a year in November to a single young, with lactation lasting about two months. The tiny youngster is carried around in flight by its mother, clinging to one of her nipples.


Their diet is very adaptable and they may forage on whatever insects are readily available. In addition to this they have the ability of gleaning, which means that they are capable of capturing non-flying prey from leaves or the ground. They use their long ears to listen for scuffling noises made by insects or the calls of crickets and a wide variety of insects and other invertebrates have been recorded in the diet, including crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, beetles, cockroaches (very handy indeed), moths, lacewings, spiders, flies, termites, mantises, and scorpions. In dry months even small frogs, fish and vegetative matter have been recorded so their diet is very adaptable indeed.

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