Creature Feature: Bat Ray

bat ray illustration by Amadeo BacharThe bat ray is the only member of the eagle ray family to inhabit California’s coastal waters. It is found statewide along the open coast on flat rocky bottoms, in sand patches among rocks, and in kelp beds, but is more common in bays and sloughs. Adults tend to congregate in groups, and are often found resting on the bottom. Even so, solitary individuals are not uncommon.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Dark brown to dark olive or almost black above; white below.
  • Distinct head elevated above the body disk.
  • Tail whip-like and as long or longer than the width of the body disk; sting located just behind body.
  • No arm-like projections on head.

Life History & Other Notes
Bat rays feed chiefly upon mollusks and crustaceans. In bays and sloughs their prey includes clams, oysters, shrimp, and crabs. On the open coast they eat abalone, various other marine snails, and mollusks. To find clams, the bat ray swims along the bottom until it encounters a current of water expelled by a clam. The ray then exposes the clam by flapping its wings.

Mating takes place during the summer months, and the young are born alive after a one-year gestation period. The young are always born tail-first with their wings rolled up over their bodies.

Most sport fishing for bat rays takes place in protected bays and estuaries. Although bat rays may be taken in the open ocean, anglers prefer to catch them in sheltered waters. Heavy tackle is recommended since anglers may encounter large rays.

 Bat Ray Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Myliobatis californica

Other Common Names: sting ray, mud marlin

Range & Habitat: Statewide, often in bays and sloughs

Length & Weight: To 4+ ft. and 181 lb.

Life Span: To 10 years

Diet & Suggested Bait: Feeds on clams, oysters, shrimp, crab, abalone & other snails. Try shrimp, squid, clam, crab, or cut mackerel for bait.

Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book.

Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to