Dahlem & Jackson Audubon Visit the Bat Zone

Last Saturday Dahlem and Jackson Audubon partnered to take members on a trip to the Bat Zone at the Cranbrook Institute north of Detroit.

DSC_1080We arrived early, so we had time to look around the museum before our appointment with the bats.

DSC_1084The stegosaurus outside was a sign of things to come…

DSC_1085There were a number of very interesting statues around the outside of the building, too.

DSC_1086The boars made me think that perhaps we were visiting Hogwarts, but apparently the boars are an important symbol at Cranbrook, for we found statues of them in several different parts of the property.

DSC_1087The dino tracks lead through the parking lot and into the museum...

DSC_1088…and inside were replicas of dinosaurs large and small, with a new exhibit going up of prehistoric aquatic monsters.  I remember some of these images in my dino books as a kid – I loved dinosaurs and wanted to be an archaeologist.

DSC_1092 DSC_1094They also have a replica of a mammoth.  Quite large and realistic.

DSC_1101We wandered around taking in some very interesting exhibits, including a rather extensive geology display.

DSC_1104But soon enough it was time for our tour of the Bat Zone.

DSC_1112The Bat Zone is home to creatures other than bats, like Mo the two-toed sloth.

DSC_1121But we were here to see bats, and so our guide brought out a few for us to see.

DSC_1133Our first bat was a female Jamaican leaf-nosed bat.  The nose leaf is a structure that helps with echolocation.  These bats are fruit-eaters, and while fruits are stationary and don’t need to be tracked down for capture, like an insect, the bats still use their echolocation to find their way around in the dark.  These little fruit bats don’t like to eat out, so they grab a fruit and fly back to a roosting spot to eat.  In order to find their way to their perch, they need to echolocate, and with a mouth full of fruit, this can be difficult.  Hence, the nose leaf, which is plan B for emitting sounds.


After meeting the leaf-nosed bat, we went to a second room, where meals were being prepared for the many fruit bats that call the Bat Zone home.  Here we were able to meet a few more species.


I think this one is a male Egyptian flying fox.

fruit bat fix1The bat that was brought out for us to meet was a female Egyptian flying fox.

DSC_1155 DSC_1159Our guide flipped her over so we could see how the wings are just really long fingers with webbing in between.


Poor bat – she tolerates so much.


Next we saw one of our native bats, the big brown.  Despite the name, the big brown bat is not really very large.

BBB fix 1

Here’s the reverse side of the big brown – note the webbing that runs from the back legs to the tail!

DSC_1178We got to watch as our guide fed mealworms to the big brown.  Enjoy this video I took – nom, nom, nom:

The fruit bats are fed from hanging baskets that are filled with fruit.  When we got there, a few were eating, but most were sleeping or just waking up.


This Rodrigues flying fox is one of the largest bats in the world, and one of the most endangered.  They live on Rodriques Island in the Indian Ocean and their numbers are perilously low.  The Organization for Bat Conservation has been helping with captive breeding programs.  This fellow was enjoying a meal while we were visiting.

Rodriques Island FF fix Behind a curtain was the colony of vampire bats.  They were mostly huddled against the far side of the enclosure and did not lend themselves well to having their photos taken.

Another group was waiting for their turn to tour the Bat Zone, so we were hastened on our way, but not before I was able to photograph this neat bit of bat house art – that’s a real bat box there, representing the side of a garage.  Pretty cool.

DSC_1188If you like bats and would like to see a few up close, a visit to the Bat Zone might be in your future.  Alternatively, keep your eyes open – the OBC frequently has outreach programs throughout the state.  In fact, they will be at the Carnegie Library here in Jackson this week!


About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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