Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Giant Bats Snatch Birds from Night Sky

From Morning Edition April 18
by John Nielsen

Every spring, billions of songbirds in Europe migrate north to their breeding grounds. They often fly at night, when few predators are around. But now researchers have found evidence that giant noctule bats in Europe are catching and eating songbirds mid-flight. The songbirds often migrate at night in an attempt to avoid predators.
“[The bats] wrap the prey between their wings and the tail membrane, so they make kind of a cage for the bird... It was something that shocked all bat scientists.” Ana Popa-Lisseanu, Bat Ecologist
[Listen to John Nielsen's full story on NPR]
These surprising research findings were published Feb. 14, 2007, in Public Library of Science ONE (PLoS ONE), an open-access journal:
Bats' Conquest of a Formidable Foraging Niche: The Myriads of Nocturnally Migrating Songbirds

Authors: Ana G. Popa-Lisseanu, Antonio Delgado-Huertas Manuela G. Forero, Alicia Rodríguez, Raphaël Arlettaz, Carlos Ibáñez.

[image from Figure 1 in the PLoS One article: "Nyctalus lasiopterus showing its impressive teeth to the researchers."]

Interested in more about bat ecology? Check out the book with the same title:

Bat Ecology / edited by Thomas H. Kunz and M. Brock Fenton
University of Chicago Press, 2003.