At AllThingsNature, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

Do Vampire Bats Really Exist?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

While the word vampire bat brings to mind images of Dracula and other horror-film characters, the truth is that nature has some real-life examples of vampirism. The best known is the vampire bat. There are three species of vampires that survive exclusively on blood: Common Vampire Bats, White-winged Vampire Bats, and Hairy-legged Vampire. While quite different to each other, all three species are native to the American continent.

Vampire bats feed on small mammals or birds, depending on the species. They hunt only at night and target sleeping animals. Vampire bats fly about by emitting ultrasonic sound pulses and using an infrared sensor to find their way. This allows them to fly in full dark and approach their prey without being detected.

Vampire bats feed on small mammals or birds.
Vampire bats feed on small mammals or birds.

Vampire bats seem to dislike human blood, as only a few cases of attack are reported every year. In contrast, vampire bats can cause serious problems in areas where cattle and horses roam outside at night. While the feeding itself doesn't hurt the animal, vampire bats are known to carry the rabies virus, which can be transferred to animals and then, in turn, to people.

Vampire bats must feed once every 48 hours.
Vampire bats must feed once every 48 hours.

To feed, vampire bats bite through the animals' skin, causing a wound not bigger than 5mm (0.2 inches). Using their tongue, the bats then lap in the blood. Special active ingredients in their saliva help prevent the blood from coagulating, while promoting easy flood. Each time they feed, vampire bats take about two tablespoons of blood from their prey, which is enough to maintain their small inch-long bodies.

Because of their unique digestive system, vampire bats must feed at least once every 48 hours to survive. Blood is usually digested quickly and lost through urine, so it's important that they replace it constantly. After feeding, vampire bats usually return to their shelters, where they sleep until the next night.

Besides being incredible flying machines, vampire bats can also walk, run, and jump with great agility. This is a great asset when stalking prey, and a great way to move around their colonies, which sometimes consists of over 2000 bats. Despite their bad reputation, vampire bats are rather harmless to humans, and can become tamed, especially when living near large human populations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do vampire bats really exist?

Yes, vampire bats are real and belong to the family Phyllostomidae. There are three species known for their blood-feeding habits: the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), the hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi). They are native to the Americas, particularly found in Mexico, Central America, and South America.

What do vampire bats feed on?

Vampire bats feed exclusively on blood, a dietary trait known as hematophagy. The common vampire bat prefers the blood of mammals, including livestock like cows and horses, while the hairy-legged and white-winged vampire bats often feed on the blood of birds. They have evolved specialized systems to aid in their unique feeding strategy, including anticoagulants in their saliva.

How do vampire bats find their prey?

Vampire bats have developed sophisticated methods to locate their prey. They use a combination of keen senses, including echolocation, excellent hearing, and an acute sense of smell. According to research, they can even recognize individual breathing patterns of their prey, which helps them to feed without waking the host animal.

Are vampire bats dangerous to humans?

While vampire bats can carry and transmit diseases like rabies, attacks on humans are rare. The risk is higher in rural areas where people may sleep outdoors or in structures that allow bats easy access. However, with proper vaccination of domestic animals and control measures, the risk of transmission can be significantly reduced.

How do vampire bats contribute to their ecosystems?

Vampire bats play a role in their ecosystems by controlling the population of their prey and serving as food for other predators. Additionally, their saliva, which contains anticoagulants, has been studied for medical applications in treating human conditions such as strokes and blood clots, showcasing their indirect contribution to human medicine.

What conservation status do vampire bats have?

Currently, vampire bats are not considered endangered and have a conservation status of 'Least Concern' according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, they face threats from habitat destruction and persecution due to the fear and misunderstanding of their feeding habits and potential to spread disease.

Discussion Comments


I understand other bat species feed on mosquitoes and other insects and help keep their populations under control, but what role does the vampire bat play in the ecosystem? If they subsist entirely on blood, then what to they contribute to their environment? I'm really curious.

Most predators keep prey populations under control, but since vampire bats don't kill their hosts, what do they do? Is their guano beneficial for the ground or something? I really would like to know, since I've never really been clear on what their role is. Maybe someone who knows something about these animals can answer my question.


Become *tamed*? Are you freaking serious? If for no other reason than the rabies issue, there is no way I'd tolerate a vampire bat in my area, if I could do anything about it. So many times, bats do carry rabies, and you just don't need that when you have any outdoor animals, even cows or horses.

I'm not sure what the solution would be to make a home very bat unfriendly, but if I lived in an area where vampire bats were common, I'd either move or get some bat repellent or something. I don't think I could tolerate that.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Vampire bats feed on small mammals or birds.
      By: cheri131
      Vampire bats feed on small mammals or birds.
    • Vampire bats must feed once every 48 hours.
      By: andrewburgess
      Vampire bats must feed once every 48 hours.