True heroes of Ljubljana: where to observe the bats

by Inga Batur

Gotham might have Batman, but Ljubljana has the true heroes - bats. In only one hour just one of those small creatures can deal with 500 bad guys – mosquitoes and other pests that annoy us. They are an important part of our capital and can be easily observed – if you know where and how to look. I talked to the Slovenian association for bat research and conservation to learn more about Ljubljana’s mysterious inhabitants.

First off, bats are the good guys

Let’s kick this off with the common misconception about bats – they are dangerous, dirty, they carry diseases, they drink blood. Is any of it true?

I sat down with a few very enthusiastic members of the Slovenian Association for Bat Research and Conservation, who are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. They are running a special project called Bats – Ljubljana’s Mysterious Inhabitants, with the goal of busting the above-mentioned myths and educating people about bats.

They were happy to tell me that bats aren’t dangerous. Furthermore, they are clean animals and in Slovenia there haven’t been any cases of bats carrying or transmitting any diseases.

Because bats feed on mosquitos and other insects, they are actually great to have around. In just one hour one bat can eat up to 500 of these pests. And their feces – guano is an excellent soil fertilizer.

  • Slika 1,2
  • Slika 1,2

Bats aren’t blind!

Next, I had to ask about the other common thing I heard about bats. Is it true they are blind and can easily get tangled up in your hair? Because if I am recommending observing them, that’s something that’s good to know.

I was wrong again. Bats aren’t blind, but at night they rely more on their ears. They use a special sonar system called 'echolocation.' That basically means they find things using echoes. When they fly they make shouting sounds, which we can’t hear since they are too high. Kids with excellent hearing might be able to hear certain species – since different species use different frequencies. And the echo they receive back from their shouts tells them what is ahead, even if it’s as small as an insect.

So, if you’d like to observe the bats while you are in Ljubljana, you don’t need to worry about them tangling in your hair, they can spot a thread thinner than your hair.

Where can you observe them in Ljubljana?

Ok, I’ve got you as excited as I am, I am sure. And you definitely want to spice up your visit and include bats spotting?

I’ve been told that the best time to do this is in summer at sunset. You want to take a walk by the river, because lots of bats go there to feed. Water attracts bugs and bugs attract bats. Take a stroll from Triple Bridge to Park Špica, or sit by the river and observe, head to Koseze Pond, look under the bridges.

Koseze pond

While you can’t hear them when they feed, you’ll be able to hear a sound similar to that of the grasshopper around the street lights where they also congregate to hunt for insects. Those are their social calls, a way of communicating with one another.

With a little bit of effort, you are bound to catch some of the 20 different species that call Ljubljana their home.

As inhabitants we can be proud of this number, because it shows that we truly are a green city. And with lots of trees, parks, woods and rivers we are also a home to bats who dwell in trees, not only to those living in buildings.

The Society has also set up bat boxes, since with renovation of many old building bats are losing their natural habitat. You can spot these dwellings in Tivoli, Rožnik, Šišenski hill and around Koseze Pond and also on some buildings in Ljubljana.

Come there at dusk and observe bats as they fly out in search of food. In one such dwelling there can be up to 10 or more bats. The Society from time to time organizes a tour where they show you these dwellings, clean them up and study the bats living inside. They also have lots of other educational events. Most are in Slovenian language, but the members are super nice and if you are interested in bats – get in touch and they might have something in English too.

Bats slika

If you should encounter a wounded bat in Ljubljana, you can call their number 068 650 090 and they’ll help out.

Interesting facts about bats for kids and curious adults

  • Bats are neither mice or birds. They are the only mammals capable of active flying.
  • There are more than 40 species of bats in Europe, 30 have been found in Slovenia.
  • Our smallest bat weighs between 3 and 6,5 grams.
  • Our biggest bat weighs between 28-40g, with a wingspan of more than 40 cm.
  • Our fastest bat can fly as quickly as 50 km/h.
  • The longest living bat in Slovenia was at least 22 years old.

Inga Batur

Inga Batur thinks all the trips with the kids should be fun(ny).

More about Inga Batur

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