North – west Africa through the entire European Mediterranean region, including all larger islands, to Central Europe. The northernmost occurrence is in Wales. Reaches to the southern parts of the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Ukraine.1 In Bulgaria it is a common species.
The largest European horseshoe bat. The dorsal fur is brown to grey – brown, often with a yellowish or reddish tinge. The ventral side is paler grey – white to yellowish – white. The ears are big and without a tragus. The connecting process is broadly rounded and short. In deep hibernation they hang separately and wrap themselves almost completely within the flight membranes, but are often only partly enclosed.
The long constant – frequency part of the calls is between 79 – 84 kHz. The sounds are relatively quiet and they can be detected from 10 m.
Their habitat is mosaic including hardwood forests, pastures, hedges and tree lines, important for colonisation. In Central Europe the Greater Horseshoe bats usually forage within a 5 km radius of the roost. In Bulgaria the distance is up to 10 km. The average distance to the hunting grounds is 5 km, with up to to eight partial hunting grounds visited each night.
In north they are located in roof spaces. In the southern part – mainly in caves, also the nursery roosts can be located in buildings and cellars. The winter roosts are in caves and mines.
Nursery colonies usually comprise of 20 – 200 individuals, in Bulgaria even more. They are formed in April – May. The females give birth to one young between the end of June and the end of July in the Mediterranean region, and in Bulgaria usually in the beginning of June. From late summer males occupy mating roosts in caves, mines and roof spaces. They are visited by the females until early spring. In the winter clusters of 30 – 500 animals are formed. The largest winter colonies are in Bulgaria and Romania, with around 1600 animals.
The flight is slow and low above the ground or close to vegetation, but it can be at a height of 4 – 6 m. The food consists mainly of beetles, but also moths, Diptera and Hymenoptera.
In the past, the use of pesticides, particularly lindane and DDT were the main threat. At present, pesticides are still a problem because the food for bats has decreased. Habitat loss and fragmentation is also a problem.
Christian Dietz and Andreas Kiefer (2014), “Bats of Britain and Europe”;
Vasil Popov, Atila Sedefchev (2003), “Mammals in Bulgaria”;
Vasil Popov, Nikolay Spasov, Teodora Ivanova, Borqna Mihaylova and Kiril Georgiev (2007), “Mammals important for conservation in Bulgaria”.