Ectophylla albawhite bat

Geographic Range

Ectophylla alba, also known as the Honduran white bat, can be found in Honduras and western Panama, as well as the Caribbean lowlands of Central America. Other areas this species inhabits can also include eastern Honduras, eastern Nicaragua, and eastern Costa Rica. The range of this species extends as far east as the Atlantic Coast and as far west as Lake Nicaragua. (Timm, 1982)


  • Range elevation
    0 to 700 m
    0.00 to 2296.59 ft

Physical Description

Honduran white bat fur varies from grey to a snow-white color and they have a leaf-shaped nose that is serrated on the edge and yellow or amber in color. Their ears also are the same color. These bats lack a tail. Their total length is 3.7 cm to 4.7 cm and average mass is 5.67 grams. Their forearm length is 25 to 28 mm. Honduran white bat wings are a soft yellow color on the outermost part while the inner membrane is a grayish black color. They have an average wingspan of 10.2 cm. Their dental formula is 2122/2122, totaling 28 teeth. Sexual dimorphism is believed to exist, with males being slightly larger than females. However, no metrics have been reported to support this trend. (Timm, 1982)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Average mass
    5.67 g
    0.20 oz
  • Range length
    3.7 to 4.7 cm
    1.46 to 1.85 in
  • Average wingspan
    10.2 cm
    4.02 in


Honduran white bats live in roosts of one male and five or six females. The mating season for these bats is during the warmer, wet season in Central America, from May and August. During this period, the single male of the roost will then mate with the group of females. Once the females have had their pups, males will go off and join a bachelor roost with other males, while the females remain in their maternity roost. (Brooke, 1989; Casebeer, et al., 1963; Timm, 1982)

Honduran white bats breed during the warmer months, typically during May and August in correspondence to the rainy season in Central America. In a roost, one male mates with the five females in that roost and each female has a single pup. The gestation period of female Honduran white bats is about 3 weeks. When the females have given birth, male Honduran white bats will form bachelor roosts which contain about six males per roost whereas females form maternity roosts.

Offspring are weaned and can fly at an age of 20 days. After 35 days, offspring are independent and are almost indistinguishable from the adults in terms of size and coloration. (Brooke, 1989; Casebeer, et al., 1963; Timm, 1982)

  • Breeding interval
    Honduran white bats breed once a year
  • Breeding season
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    3 weeks
  • Average weaning age
    20 days
  • Average time to independence
    35 days

From birth to independence, female Honduran white bats typically invest all of their time in taking care of their young. Female Honduran white bats form maternity colonies that include adult females and their young. Males form bachelor roosts in groups of six mature males. They maintain this bachelor colony until the offspring have matured and left the maternity roosts. Therefore, the males do not contribute to the offspring beyond mating. When females with young go out to forage, other females have been known to take in the young and nurse the pup until its mother returns. (Brooke, 1989; Casebeer, et al., 1963; Timm, 1982)

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


There is currently no information on the lifespan on Honduran white bats. The typical lifespan of members of the Phyllostomidae family is about seven years. Members of the genus Desmodus have been known to live about 18 years in the wild and up to 19.5 years in captivity. It is expected that Honduran white bats have a lifespan within these ranges. (Burns, et al., 2014)


Honduran white bats are a social species, often building roosts out of heliconia (Heliconia species) leaves, a flowering plant endemic to the forests of Central America. This plant can house from one to six individuals, typically one sexually-active male and 5 females. In order to build these roosts, the females will cut from the outermost edge of the leaf to the midrib, causing it to droop. During the day, these bats use their roosts to sleep and protect themselves from the sight of predators, using the daylight to camouflage themselves. At night, Honduran white bats emerge from their roost and forage for fruit. Honduran white bats use echolocation to navigate at night. (Brooke, 1989; Casebeer, et al., 1963; Gillam, et al., 2013; Rodriguez-Herrera, et al., 2015; Rodriguez-Herrera, et al., 2006; Timm and Mortimer, 1976)

  • Range territory size
    0.226 to 0.632 km^2

Home Range

The home range of Honduran white bats is typically 22.6 to 63.2 hectares. Although they return to the same heliconia leaf after foraging, they do not defend it and are not territorial. (Villalobos-Chaves, et al., 2017)

Communication and Perception

Honduran white bats use calls and touch to communicate with other individuals from its species, whether it be locating other individuals or communicating to others in their own roosts. During mating season, males and females communicate with each other through the use of pheromones to tell when the females are in heat and ready to mate. At night, Honduran white bats use echolocation in order to find fruit which is their main source of food. (Gillam, et al., 2013)

Food Habits

Honduran white bat primary diet is figs, but they can feed on other fruits. Honduran white bats forage for fruits at night. (Timm, 1982; Villalobos-Chaves, et al., 2017)

  • Plant Foods
  • fruit


Honduran white bats are preyed upon by animals that can reach them in their roosts. These predators are typically owls, snakes, opossums, squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedi), and raptors. The enclosed leaf roosts provide camouflage and can help shield the bats from predators. During the day, sunlight will shine through the canopy and tends to radiate through leaves. The white fur of Honduran white bats reflect the sun and appears a greenish color to act as a camouflage. (Boinski and Timm, 1985; Timm, 1982)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Honduran white bats are only one of four members of the family Phyllostomidae endemic to Central America. Their unique habit of folding Heliconia leaves into tents, combined with their focus on figs as food makes them a unique contributor to their ecosystem. It's unknown if they disperse fig seeds. No parasites have been reported for this species. (Timm and Mortimer, 1976; Timm, 1982)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no positive economic impacts Honduran white bats have on humans. (Timm, 1982)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative economic impacts Honduran white bats have on humans.

Conservation Status

Honduran white bats are listed as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN Red List because of a significant decline in habitat. This loss is attributed to the rapidly growing human population and the clear-cutting of forests to make way for urbanization. Their specialized lifestyle, relying entirely on Heliconia leaves also makes them vulnerable to extinction. These bats can exist (albeit in small numbers) in agroforestry habitats, suggesting a chance to coexist with human activity. No other large-scale conservation efforts are in place for this species. These bats have no special status on the CITES list or any U.S. lists because they don't exist in U.S. territories. (Harvey and González Villalobos, 2007; Timm, 1982)


Stephanie Felton (author), Radford University, Alex Atwood (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Joshua Turner (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


The process by which an animal locates itself with respect to other animals and objects by emitting sound waves and sensing the pattern of the reflected sound waves.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


having more than one female as a mate at one time


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Allen, H. 1898. The skull and teeth of Ectophylla alba. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 19/2: 267-272.

Boinski, S., R. Timm. 1985. Predation by squirrel monkeys and double-toothed kites on tent-making bats. American Journal of Primatology, 9/2: 121-127.

Brooke, A. 1989. Tent selection, roosting ecology and social organization of the tent-making bat, Ectophylla alba, in Costa Rica. Journal of Zoology, 221/1: 11-19.

Burns, L., V. Hutzley, Z. Laubach. 2014. "Phyllostomidae" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 15, 2017 at

Casebeer, R., R. Linsky, C. Nelson. 1963. The phyllostomid bats, Ectophylla alba and Vampyrum spectrum, in Costa Rica. Journal of Mammology, 44/2: 186-189.

Gardner, A., R. LaVal, D. Wilson. 1970. The distributional status of some Costa Rican bats. Journal of Mammology, 51/4: 712-729.

Gardner, A., D. Wilson. 1971. A melanized subcutaneous covering of the cranial musculature in the phyllostomid bat, Ectophylla alba. Journal of Zoology, 52/4: 854-855.

Gillam, E., G. Chaverri, M. Karina, M. Sagot. 2013. Social calls produced within and near the roost in two species of tent-making bats, Dermanura watsoni and Ectophylla alba. PLoS ONE, 8/4: 365-372.

Greenbaum, I., R. Baker, D. Wilson. 1975. Evolutionary implications of the karyotypes of the stenodermine genera Ardops, Ariteus, Phyllops, and Ectophylla. Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, 74/3: 156-159.

Harvey, C., J. González Villalobos. 2007. Agroforestry systems conserve species-rich but modified assemblages of tropical birds and bats. Biodiversity and Conservation, 16/8: 2257–2292.

Morales-Leyva, A., R. Medellin, S. Lance, B. Rodriguez-Herrera, M. Real-Monroy, J. Ortega. 2014. Developement of microsatellite loci for the Honduran white-bat (Ectophylla alba) by using Illumina paired-end sequences. Conservation Genet Resour, 6/1: 219-220.

Rodriguez-Herrera, B., G. Ceballos, R. Medellin. 2011. Ecological apsects of the tent buiding process by Ectophylla alba (Chiroptera: Phhyllostomidae). Acta Chiropterologica, 13/2: 365-372.

Rodriguez-Herrera, B., R. Medellin, M. Gamba-Rios. 2008. Roosting requirements of white tent-making bat Ectophylla alba (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae). Acta Chiropterologica, 10/1: 89-95.

Rodriguez-Herrera, B., R. Medellin, M. Gamba-Rios. 2006. Tent building by female Ectophylla alba (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae. Acta Chiropterologica, 8/2: 537-571.

Rodriguez-Herrera, B., L. Viquez-R, E. Cordero-Schmidt, J. Sandoval, A. Rodriguez-Duran. 2015. Energetics of tent roosting in bats: The case of Ectophylla alba and Uroderma bilobatum (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae). Journal of Mammology, 97/1: 246-252.

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Timm, R., J. Mortimer. 1976. Selection of roost sites by Honduran white bats, Ectophylla alba (Chiroptera: Phyllostomatidae). Ecology, 57/2: 385-389.

Villalobos-Chaves, D., M. Spinola-Parallada, K. Heer, E. Kalko, B. Rodriguez-Herrera. 2017. Implications of a specialized diet for the foraging behavior of the Honduran white bat, Ectophylla alba (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae). Journal of Mammology, 98/4: 1193-1201.