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Studies on the Two New Zealand Bats

Food and Feeding

Food and Feeding

The numerous evening observations of bats above water suggest that adult instars of insects with aquatic larvae may form a major portion of the diet. Bats hunting the forest margin in the evening probably obtain moths. Moths, mosquitoes, and midges are all recorded as food items by observers, and Colenso (1890) notes that small flies were readily accepted by a captive bat.

Cheeseman (1894) records the capture of insects on the wing by Chalinolobus, and Roach and Turbott (1953) fed a bat of this species with mealworms and liver fragments. A praying mantis was readily accepted. The jaw motion in feeding was described as very rapid, food items being quickly reduced to a pulp. The faeces of Chalinolobus are small, about 4 to 8 mm long and, though usually tapered at either end, they may be somewhat irregular. Droppings from the surface of a cave pool at Orakei-Korako (Rotorua-Taupo district) consisted almost entirely of lepidopterous and dipterous remnants.

Items accepted as food by captive specimens of Mystacina include earwigs, spiders, moths, grasshoppers, crickets, wood grubs, and wire worms. Of these, spiders, moths and crickets were apparently most acceptable. McKay (Internal Affairs file) states that crickets "were quickly killed and, like all other insects that were offered, they were devoured head first with a distinct crunching noise". Spiders and crickets were readily taken from the floor of the cage.

Stead (1937) records the flesh of a skinned diving petrel being eaten by Mystacina and carcasses of mutton birds hung out overnight to dry have been damaged by these bats. The strong transverse tongue ridges (Knox, 1872) would facilitate such feeding habits. The specialization of this bat for terrestrialism and the recorded flesh-eating habits suggest that a scavenging habit could provide a winter food source.

Parham (personal communication) describes drinking habits of Mystacina. "The animal was offered half a teaspoonful of water. It would take a drink, then wipe its mouth on the floor of the cage before taking the next. This process was repeated four or five times. During this period it was sitting with the toes of each foot splayed out, and the arms resting on the floor."