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Bats from the coastal region of southern Texas.

ABSTRACT. -- A complete literature review revealed a paucity of information regarding chiropteran distribution and habitat along the southern coast of Texas. This survey describes distributional and ecological observations for 13 species of bats from that region. Key words: Chiroptera; distribution; natural history; Texas.


The coastal region of southern Texas offers a diversity of habitats suitable for bats, yet few surveys of their distribution in that region have been undertaken. In an unpublished survey of Texas mammals and birds, Lloyd (1891) reported several observations of bats in southern Texas, but identified only two species. Bailey (1905) recorded four species from Cameron and Hidalgo counties, only a small part of coastal southern Texas as here defined. Mulaik (1943) subsequently found five species in Hidalgo County. In his survey of Texas biotic provinces, Blair (1950) included only two bats from coastal southern Texas. Little information has been published on the distribution of bats in the region since Blair's (1952) survey. Davis (1974) reported 11 species from the coastal region of southern Texas, but as Schmidly et al. (1977) noted, this reference lacks exact collecting localities and a listing of institutions where specimens are deposited.

To provide a more complete picture of distribution and seasonal abundance of the bat fauna of the coastal region of southern Texas, 438 specimens from 12 counties were examined. These included collections from field work in Cameron, Nueces, San Patricio, and Willacy counties from April 1987 until October 1988. Wherever possible, pertinent life history observations also are recorded.


The study area defined herein as "southern coastal Texas" includes those counties along the Gulf of Mexico from Refugio and Bee counties south to Mexico (Fig. 1). The western boundry includes Live Oak, Jim Wells, Brooks, and Hidalgo counties.

Coastal southern Texas is situated in the Tamaulipan biotic province of Texas (Blair, 1950). Oberholser et al. (1974) referred to the habitats in the Tamaulipan province from San Antonio to the Rio Grande as South Texas brush country and coastal prairie. A part of this province, including Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, and Starr counties is designated as the Matamoran district (Blair, 1950), from which Blair (1952) reported seven species of bats. Included in the Matamoran district are approximately 14 hectares of Rio Grande palmetto palms (Sabal texana), which occur naturally in a grove southeast of Brownsville, Cameron County. Resident populations of Lasiurus ega and L. intermedius may occur in this palm grove. The remainder of the Tamaulipan province is referred to as the Nuecian district (Blair, 1952).


Bats were collected in Cameron County at the Fort Brown Hotel in Brownsville. Vegetation surrounding the hotel included Washington fan palms (Washingtonia robusta) and Rio Grande palmetto palms. Specimens were taken from the decorative columns on the second story of the hotel. These columns were composed of pumice rocks held in place by mortar. Bats were removed from gaps in the mortar using forceps.

One collection site in Nueces County was located 1.6 km. S Driscoll. A discription of the site is provided in Spencer et al. (1988). Bats were removed with insect nets from Washington fan palms. Bats also were collected from the Corpus Christi Public Compress cotton warehouses in Nueces County. Using forceps, bats were removed from gaps between wooden beams and concrete walls inside the warehouses.

Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation was used as the collection site in San Patricio County. This refuge is located in a transitional zone between the Gulf Prairies and Marshes and the South Texas Plains (Thomas, 1975). The area where bats were taken was described by Drawe et al. (1978) as a Woodland-Spiny Aster complex. Specimens were taken over Moody Creek using mist nets.

The study site for Willacy County was located on the Yturria Ranch, La Chata Division. Specimens were collected by setting mist nets and trip wires over an earthen cattle tank. The vegetation surrounding this site was dominated by large honey mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa) and mixed brush.


Specimens examined were preserved either as skins accompanied by skulls or in alcohol and deposited in the following collections (museum abbreviations given in parentheses): Corpus Christi State University Vertebrate Collection (CCSU); Texas A & I University Vertebrate Collection (A & I); Pan American University Vertebrate Collection (PAU); Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection, A & M University (TCWC); Texas Natural History Collection, University of Texas at Austin (TNHC); The Museum, Texas Tech University (TTU); U. S. National Museum of Natural History (USNM); American Museum of Natural History (AMNH); Welder Wildlife Foundation Collection (WWF). The arrangement of species and use of vernacular names follows Jones et al. (1988).

Mormoops megalophylla Peters, Ghost-faced Bat

The ghost-faced bat, referable (Smith, 1972) to the subspecies M. m. megalophylla, is known from Cameron and Hidalgo counties in the coastal region of southern Texas (Mulaik, 1943; Constantine, 1961; Davis, 1974; Hall, 1981; Jones et al., 1988). No additional specimens were collected or examined during this survey although this species may range along the Texas coast (Barbour and Davis, 1969).

This bat occupies a range of diverse habitats from desert scrub to tropical forests (Barbour and Davis, 1969). In Edinburg, Texas, four specimens were captured in January and February while hanging from a rough plaster ceiling in a junior high school (Davis, 1974). Apparently, ghost-faced bats do not hibernate, but no information is available on the subject (Jameson, 1959; Barbour and Davis, 1969).

Choeronycteris mexicana Tschudi, Mexican Long-tongued Bat

This species is known by a single record from Hidalgo County, represented by photographs only (LaVal and Shifflett, 1972). Jones et al. (1988) reported that this record probably represents an accidental northward occurrence. Choeronycteris mexicana is a monotypic species (Hall, 1981).

Mexican long-tongued bats occupy a range from tropical lowlands to montane habitats (Villa-R., 1967; Matson and Patten, 1975). The specimen from Hidalgo County was taken in December 1970 from a garage in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was described by LaVal and Shifflett (1972) as mostly subtropical riparian forest.

Myotis velifer (J. A. Allen), Cave Myotis

The cave myotis is known only from Hidalgo County in the southern coastal study region (Hayward, 1970; Jones et al., 1988). The subspecies is M. v. incautus according to Hall, 1981.

These bats are usually cave dwellers, although they also roost in old, abandoned buildings and mine tunnels (Hayward, 1970; Davis, 1974; Schmidly, 1983). The species occupies a variety of habitats (Blair, 1952; Davis and Russell, 1952; Baker, 1956; Hayward, 1970; Davis, 1974; Schmidly, 1983). Some populations of cave myotis are known to hibernate (Hayward, 1970; Schmidly, 1977), whereas others probably migrate (Davis et al., 1962; Hayward, 1970).

Pipistrellus subflavus (F. Cuvier), Eastern Pipistrelle

Reports of this bat, referable to the subspecies P. s. subflavus, from the coastal counties are rare. It has been reported previously from Kleberg, Bee, and Cameron counties (Bailey, 1905; Davis, 1959; Zehner, 1985). Zehner (1985) recorded a specimen found in August in a building on Padre Island National Seashore. Additional specimens reported from the study region were collected in April. This bat hibernates (Davis, 1974), but no information is available on seasonal movements.

Specimens examined (2). -- BEE Co.: 2 mi. N Beeville on U. S. Hwy. 181, 1 (CCSU). KLEBERG Co.: 2.4 mi. S Padre Island National Seashore, 1 (CCSU).

Lasiurus borealis (Muller), Eastern Red Bat

Red bats have been collected from Aransas, Refugio, Bee, Nueces, Hidalgo, and Cameron counties in the coastal region of southern Texas (Miller, 1897; Mulaik, 1943; Blair, 1952; Raun, 1966; Davis, 1974). This species also occurs in San Patricio and Kleberg counties. Lasiurus borealis is a monotypic species according to Baker et al. (1988).

According to Schmidly et al. (1977), red bats occur in all major vegetation regions. Museum specimens examined from coastal Texas were collected from May through October. Texas populations of this species may be migratory (Davis, 1974; Hall, 1981), although Schmidly et al. (1977) reported that this bat has been collected in the eastern part of the state in all seasons of the year.

Specimens examined (7). -- BEE Co.: Beeville, 1 (TNHC). ARANSAS Co.: Rockport, 2 (AMNH). SAN PATRICIO Co.: Sinton, 2 (WWF). KLEBERG Co.: Kingsville, A & I campus, 2 (A & I).

Lasiurus cinereus (Palisot de Beauvois), Hoary Bat

The hoary bat, referable to the subspecies L. c. cinereus, has been reported from Cameron and Hidalgo counties (Bailey, 1905; Mulaik, 1943; Davis, 1974; Hall, 1981). Examination of museum collections also revealed a specimen of this species from Kleberg County.

Hoary bats have been found roosting in wooded areas hanging in the open from a branch or twig (Davis, 1974). One specimen (A & I 172) collected in Kleberg County was found roosting approximately one meter above the ground in a grapefruit tree. Specimens have been collected in the study region in January, April, May, September, and October. This species migrates southward in winter (Stones and Wieber, 1965; Davis, 1974), but probably does not hibernate (Findley and Jones, 1964; Stones and Wieber, 1965).

Specimens examined (11). -- KLEBERG Co.: Kingsville, 1 (A & I); 7.5 mi. S Kingsville in South Pasture, 1 (A & I). HIDALGO Co.: 1.25 mi. SE Edinburg, 1 (PAU); 5 mi. S Pharr, 1 (PAU); Weslaco, 1 (PAU). CAMERON Co.: Brownsville, 6 (USNM).

Lasiurus ega (Gervais), Southern Yellow Bat

This species, previously believed to be rare in southern Texas, had been reported only from Cameron County (Baker et al., 1971). Recent collections show that southern yellow bats are common in Nueces County (Spencer et al., 1988). The species also has been collected in Kleberg and Hidalgo counties.

Southern yellow bats, referred to the subspecies L. e. panamensis by Baker et al., 1971, have been collected in the coastal region of southern Texas in most months of the year. In Brownsville, this species roosts in natural palm groves where it is considered to be a permanent resident (Baker et al., 1971; Davis, 1974). All specimens collected in Nueces County were found roosting in Washington fan palms (Spencer et al., 1988). Although most bats in the genus Lasiurus are solitary, many of the specimens from Nueces County were found roosting with Lasiurus intermedius. Most specimens from Nueces County were collected in March; however, this species has been observed flying and roosting there from February until November. Persons at the Driscoll study site reported having seen these bats there in all months of the year for many years, even though this species is thought to be migratory (Barbour and Davis, 1969).

Specimens examined (100). -- NUECES Co.: 1 mi. S Driscoll, 4 (CCSU); Corpus Christi, 2 (CCSU). KLEBERG Co.: Kingsville, A & I campus, 1 (A & I). HIDALGO Co.: no precise locality, 1 (PAU). CAMERON Co.: 5 mi. SE Brownsville, 91 (1 A & I, 90 TTU); Brownsville, 1 (AMNH).

Lasiurus intermedius (H. Allen), Northern Yellow Bat

This species may be a common resident in coastal southern Texas. It was known previously from San Patricio, Kleberg, Cameron, and Hidalgo counties (Bailey, 1905; Taylor and Davis, 1947; Davis, 1974; Hall, 1981). During field work, this species, referable to L. i. intermedius according to Hall and Jones (1961), also was collected in Nueces County (Spencer et al., 1988).

Northern yellow bats have been collected from January to September in the study area. In Cameron County, they have been taken from the dead fronds of tall palms (Barbour and Davis, 1969; Baker et al., 1971). Most specimens from Nueces County were collected from Washington fan palms (Spencer et al., 1988). Although several bats of this species have been found roosting together in dead fronds (Barbour and Davis, 1969), L. intermedius had not previously been reported roosting with other bat species. At the Driscoll Ranch study site, northern yellow bats were found roosting with southern yellow bats (Spencer et al., 1988).

Specimens examined (48). -- SAN PATRICIO Co.: Sinton, 1 (TNHC). NUECES Co.: 1 mi. S Driscoll, 5 (CCSU); Corpus Christi, 4 (CCSU); KLEBERG Co.: Kingsville, Texas A & I campus, 20 (17 A & I, 1 TCWC, 2 TTU). CAMERON Co.: no precise locality, 1 (TCWC); 5 mi. SE Brownsville, 5 (TCWC); Brownsville, 12 (4 AMNH, 8 USNM).

Lasiurus seminolus (Rhoads), Seminole Bat

The seminole bat has been reported only from Cameron County in coastal southern Texas (Hall, 1981). Although this species may range along the coast through Texas into Mexico (Barkalow and Funderburg, 1960; Barbour and Davis, 1969), we collected no specimens, and the one record from the region may be an extralimital occurrence or possibly represents a mididentified L. borealis. In any event, Jones et al. (1988) did list southern Texas as within the range of the seminole bat.

Spanish moss and pine-oak and long-leaf pine forests are favored roosting sites (Schmidly, 1983). Specific habitats in southern Texas remain unknown. These bats probably are active throughout the year (Davis, 1974). Although migratory patterns are not known, Barbour and Davis (1969) reported a definite distributional shift southward in autumn. The occurrence of this species in Cameron County is in need of verification.

Nycticeius humeralis (Rafinesque), Evening Bat

Evening bats have been reported from San Patricio, Bee, Kenedy, Refugio, Cameron, and Hidalgo counties in coastal southern Texas (Miller, 1897; Mulaik, 1943; Blair, 1952; Davis, 1974; Hall, 1981). In addition, we have examined museum specimens from Kleberg County and individuals have been collected in Willacy County.

This bat, referable to the subspecies N. h. humeralis, was observed roosting in gaps under loose bark and cavities in mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa) in Willacy County. Several specimens also were taken from between decorative rocks at a hotel in Cameron County. Specimens from coastal southern Texas have been taken from January to September. Migration and hibernation abilities of this species are unknown.

Specimens examined (181). -- BEE Co.: Mineral, 1 (A & I); 8 mi. N Beeville, 1 (TNHC). REFUGIO Co.: Woodsboro, 1 (TCWC). SAN PATRICIO Co.: 8 mi. N Sinton, 1 (TCWC); Welder Wildlife Foundation, Sinton, 4 (WWF). KLEBERG Co.: Kingsville, 4 (A & I). KENEDY Co.: Encino Division, King Ranch, 3 (A & I); Rudolph, Norias Division, King Ranch, 14 (TCWC); 6 mi. ESE Rudolph, Norias Division, King Ranch, 5 (PAU). HIDALGO Co.: Bentson State Park, 5 (TCWC). WILLACY Co.: 5.75 mi. N Raymondville, U. S. Hwy. 77, Bakke-Esparanza Ranch, 6 (TCWC); Yturria Ranch, La Chata Division, 80 (CCSU). CAMERON Co.: Southmost Nursery, Brownsville, 2 (A & I); Southmost Ranch, Brownsville, 1 (A & I); Brownsville, 1 (AMNH); Brownsville, Fort Brown Hotel, 4 (CCSU); 5 mi. SE Brownsville, 48 (5 A & I, 43 TTU).

Antrozous pallidus (Le Conte), Pallid Bat

Pallid bats apparently are rare in coastal southern Texas and are known only from Cameron County (Davis, 1974; Hall, 1981). Specimens from this area are referable (Martin and Schmidly, 1982) to the subspecies A. p. pallidus.

Pallid bats are primarily cave dwellers, but have been captured roosting in man-made structures such as attics, barns, and abandoned buildings (Davis, 1974). The specimen examined from Cameron County was netted in September in a natural Rio Grande palmetto grove. Possibly this was a migrant, because pallid bats probably undertake seasonal movements (Vaughan and O'Shea, 1976).

Specimens examined (1). -- CAMERON Co.: 5 mi. SE Brownsville (TTU).

Tadarida brasiliensis (Saussure), Brazilian Free-tailed Bat

This bat, presumably referable to the subspecies T. b. mexicana, is common throughout the study region. It has been reported from Bee, San Patricio, Refugio, Jim Wells, Hidalgo, and Cameron counties (Bailey, 1905; Mulaik, 1943; Blair, 1952; Short et al., 1960; Davis, 1974). Based on specimens collected and examined, this species also occurs in Aransas, Nueces, and Kleberg counties.

This bat utilizes man-made structures as roosting sites in coastal southern Texas (Barbour and Davis, 1969). In Nueces County, specimens were collected and others examined at the cotton warehouse study site every month from April 1987 through August 1988. Bats were taken in Cameron County from the Fort Brown Hotel in the same manner as described for N. humeralis. This species is known to migrate.

Specimens examined (87). -- BEE Co.: 6 mi. E Beeville, Hwy. 202, Medio Creek Bridge, 5 (CCSU); Poesta Creek, Beeville, 1 (CCSU). ARANSAS Co.: Rockport, 1 (CCSU). SAN PATRICIO Co.: Sinton, 23 (TCWC); Welder Wildlife Foundation, Sinton, 1 (WWF). NUECES Co.: Corpus Christi, 26 (24 CCSU, 2 USNM). KLEBERG Co.: Kingsville, Texas A & I campus, 14 (A & I); Kingsville, 2 (TCWC); Padre Island National Seashore, 1 (CCSU). HIDALGO Co.: 13 mi. S Edinburg, 4 (TCWC); 5 mi. S Mission Anzaldouas Dam, 1 (TCWC); Edinburg, Pan American University campus, 5 (PAU); Santa Anna Wildlife Refuge, 1 (USNM). CAMERON Co.: Fort Brown Hotel, Brownsville, 2 (CCSU).

Tadarida macrotis (Gray), Big Free-tailed Bat

The only record of the big free-tailed bat in the southern coastal region is that of a male found hanging from a screen door in San Patricio County (Raun, 1961). The habitat surrounding the collection site was described by Drawe et al. (1978) as a live oak-chaparral community. Although little information is available, Davis (1978) suspected that this species hibernates in the Big Bend region of Texas.

Specimens examined (1). -- SAN PATRICIO Co.: Welder Wildlife Foundation, Sinton, (WWF).


We wish to thank the following people for allowing us to examine specimens under their care: Drs. J. Knox Jones, Jr., Clyde Jones, and Robert J. Baker, The Museum, Texas Tech University; Dr. David J. Schmidly and Mr. George Baumgardner, Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection, Texas A & M University; Dr. Allan H. Chaney, Texas A & I University; Dr. Frank W. Judd, Pan American University; Mr. Robert L. Martin, Texas Natural History Collection, University of Texas at Austin; Dr. Don E. Wilson, U. S. National Museum, Dr. Sydney Anderson, American Museum of Natural History; and Dr. James G. Teer and Mr. Gene W. Blacklock, Welder Wildlife Foundation. We are grateful to Mr. Michael McBain, of Corpus Christi Public Compress, Clay Pascal and his family, Dr. Michael E. Tewes, Texas A & I University, and Daniel Butler for giving us opportunities to collect in coastal southern Texas. This manuscript benefited from the constructive criticism by Drs. Genaro Lopez and John W. Tunnell, Jr. We also thank Paul Choucair, Karen Hooten, Cristie Wall, and Walter Kilgus for their assistance in collection of specimens.


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Department of Biology, Corpus Christi State University, Corpus Christi, Texas 78412
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Author:Chapman, Sandra S.; Chapman, Brian R.
Publication:The Texas Journal of Science
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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