©Tom Marshall

Common pipistrelle

Scientific name: Pipistrellus pipistrellus
The common pipistrelle is so small, it can fit into a matchbox! Despite its size, it can easily eat 3,000 insects a night - look for it flitting around the garden or a lit lamp post as it chases its prey.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 3.5-4.5cm
Wingspan: 20-23cm
Weight: 3-8g
Average lifespan: 4-5 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. European Protected Species under Annex IV of the European Habitats Directive.

When to see

April to October

About

The common pipistrelle is our smallest and most common bat. All UK bats are nocturnal, feeding on midges, moths and other flying insects that they find in the dark by using echolocation. Common pipistrelles feed in a wide range of habitats from grasslands to urban areas. They roost in tree holes, bat boxes and even the roof spaces of houses, often in small colonies. During the summer, females form maternity colonies and have just a single pup. Look out for common pipistrelles jerkily darting about as they hunt for insects in gardens, over wetlands, or around street lights at dusk. They hibernate over winter, usually between November and April, although they may come out to feed on warm days.

How to identify

The common pipistrelle has dark, golden-brown fur, a slightly paler underside and a dark mask around the face. Its flight is rapid with lots of twists and turns. The soprano pipistrelle is similar in appearance, so the two can be difficult to tell apart.

Distribution

Widespread, but absent from Shetland and parts of Orkney.

Did you know?

It was only recently discovered that there are actually two species of pipistrelle bat - common and soprano - both originally grouped as Pipistrellus pipistrellus. They are distinguished by the different frequency of their echolocation calls.

How people can help

Whether you live in town or country, you can help to look after garden wildlife by providing food, water and shelter. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started, at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk. To buy bird and animal food, feeders and homes, such as bat boxes, visit the Vine House Farm website - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm which gives 5% of all its takings to The Wildlife Trusts.