The UK is home to a variety of bat species, each of which has unique attributes and distinctive behavioural traits that will render them relatively simple to distinguish from one another if you are in the know.

Here is a brief introduction to the principal species that flit about in our skies at night, ranging from the diminutive to the substantial.

1. Alcathoe bat
Measuring just 4 centimetres long on average, this tiny bat was only confirmed to exist in the UK back in 2010. In spite of this, it is not thought to be a recent arrival; rather it was previously not identified as a distinct species because it is physically very similar to a number of other bat subgroups.

Because little research has been done into the Alcathoe bat so far, it is a fairly mysterious figure. However, like all of its cousins it is a night time hunter which snacks on insects of various types while it is on the wing, harnessing echolocation to pinpoint its prey before it strikes.

2. Barbastelle
This bat is both uncommon and difficult to spot, although thanks to its snub nose and unique features, most people will recognise one if they encounter it in the wild.

It is a protected species due to its rarity, as well as being one of the longest living bats, able to survive for almost a quarter of a century in some cases.

3. Bechstein’s bat
Only found in a handful of places in England and Wales, this very rare bat dwells in woodlands and lives in colonies of anywhere from 10 to 100 individual animals.

Compared with some of its noisier counterparts, the Bechstein’s bat is actually relatively hushed when it is on the hunt. Detecting it using specialist equipment is only possible at very close quarters.

4. Brandt’s bat
Like the Alcathoe bat, this species did not gain a distinct determination until fairly recently because its physical features and habits are so similar to other varieties.

A Brandt’s bat can weigh anywhere up to 9.5 grams and sport a wingspan of almost 24 centimetres. They prefer to roost in the eaves of buildings, usually older structures that have sufficient nooks and crannies to accommodate them.

5. Brown long-eared bat
All bats are very good at detecting sound thanks to their ears, but this critter is an exception even amongst its own species.

With ears that tower above its tiny head, it can hear insects moving over long distances, even if its prey is so small that most other animals would be completely incapable of picking up the noises.

6. Common pipistrelle
The most successful of the bat species living in the UK, the pipistrelle is both very small and really ravenous, consuming thousands of insects whenever it hunts in the darkness.

With a dark face and brown, furry bodies, they are also relatively easy to spot and identify. They also communicate with one another at frequencies that humans can hear, saving their higher pitched chittering for finding insects.

7. Daubenton’s bat
While many bats will snatch moths and midges out of the air, this species has actually evolved to take waterborne prey while on the wing.

Its fishing technique relies upon using its feet or its tail to snare insects that are unlucky enough to be caught sitting on the surface of ponds thanks to the surface tension of the water molecules.

8. Greater horseshoe bat
This bat gets its name because of the shape that its nose forms, so you will have no problem identifying one if you see it while out and about.

The greater horseshoe bat is also quite a bit larger than other species, as the name suggests. They can weigh up to 34 grams and have wings that span a full 40 centimetres.

9. Grey long-eared bat
Another long-eared variety, this bat is still modest in size but has ears that measure close to the same length as its entire body.

While it might be possible to get this mixed up with the brown long-eared bat, the grey colour of its fur should give the biggest clue as to its species.

10. Leisler’s bat
This bat has a mane of fur that clusters close to its head, giving it an almost regal look. Found in both rural and urban areas, it prefers to fly high and make small low-level sorties to grab its prey.

Like some other bats, the calls of the Leisler’s bat are sometimes of a low enough frequency that people can pick them up.

11. Lesser horseshoe bat
Smaller than the greater horseshoe bat, this species shares its distinctive snout shape. The only issue is that because it will roost with its wings swaddling its entire form, it is actually tough to work out when one is in residence.

12. Nathusius’ pipistrelle
A foreign cousin of the common pipistrelle, this bat used to migrate to the UK for brief periods each year but has since taken up permanent residence in some places.

13. Natterer’s bat
Some bats blast through the air in a flurry of wings, but the Natterer’s bat is actually a little more sedate in its movement. This is made possible thanks to its larger wingspan, which lets it take long, lazy strokes that allow for more precise prey-catching.

14. Noctule
Larger than any other bat that is currently resident in the UK, the Noctule can tip the scale at up to 40 grams and boasts a 40 centimetre wingspan.

Because of its size and strength, the Noctule prefers to pick a direction and fly straight, rather than flitting around in a more sporadic pattern as it hunts.

15. Serotine
Following in the footsteps of the Noctule by avoiding frantic flapping, this bat is well camouflaged against tree trunks and stones thanks to its brown-grey fur.

16. Soprano pipistrelle
Although it has many physical attributes which put it in the same size category as the common pipistrelle, the name of this bat alludes to its one stand-out ability; its high pitched vocalisations.

17. Whiskered bat
Bats tend to have relatively short fur, but this species bucks the trend with its unkempt-looking whiskery coat. This serves to keep it warm in colder conditions, of course.