Common pipistrelle

Common pipistrelle

©Tom Marshall

Common pipistrelle

Scientific name: Pipistrellus pipistrellus
The common pipistrelle is so small, it can fit into a matchbox! Despite its size, it can easily eat 3,000 insects a night: look for it flitting around the garden or a lit lamp post as it chases its prey.

Species information


Length: 3.5-4.5cm
Wingspan: 20-23cm
Weight: 3-8g
Average lifespan: 4-5 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. European Protected Species under Annex IV of the European Habitats Directive.

When to see

April to October


The common pipistrelle is our smallest and most common bat. All UK bats are nocturnal – preferring to come out only at night. They feed on midges, moths and other flying insects that they find in the dark by using echolocation. Common pipistrelles don’t have to look far to find food, whether they live in the countryside or the city!

They roost in tree holes, bat boxes and even the roof spaces of houses, often in small colonies. During the summer, females form maternity colonies and have just a single pup each. Look out for common pipistrelles darting about as they hunt for insects in gardens or around streetlights just after sunset. They hibernate over winter, usually between November and April, but may come out to feed on warm days.

How to identify

The common pipistrelle has dark, golden-brown fur, a slightly paler underside and a dark mask around the face. Its flight is rapid with lots of twists and turns. The soprano pipistrelle is similar in appearance, so the two can be difficult to tell apart.


Widespread, but absent from Shetland and parts of Orkney.

Did you know?

It was only discovered in the late 1990s that there are actually two very closely related species of pipistrelle bat - common and soprano - both originally grouped as Pipistrellus pipistrellus. They are distinguished by the different frequency of their echolocation calls. A third species of pipistrelle, a slightly larger bat called Nathusius' pipistrelle, is also found in the UK.