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Mating behavior as a possible cause of bat fatalities at wind turbines

January 1, 2008

Bats are killed by wind turbines in North America and Europe in large numbers, yet a satisfactory explanation for this phenomenon remains elusive. Most bat fatalities at turbines thus far occur during late summer and autumn and involve species that roost in trees. In this commentary I draw on existing literature to illustrate how previous behavioral observations of the affected species might help explain these fatalities. I hypothesize that tree bats collide with turbines while engaging in mating behaviors that center on the tallest trees in a landscape, and that such behaviors stem from 2 different mating systems (resource defense polygyny and lekking). Bats use vision to move across landscapes and might react to the visual stimulus of turbines as they do to tall trees. This scenario has serious conservation and management implications. If mating bats are drawn to turbines, wind energy facilities may act as population sinks and risk may be hard to assess before turbines are built. Researchers could observe bat behavior and experimentally manipulate trees, turbines, or other tall structures to test the hypothesis that tree bats mate at the tallest trees. If this hypothesis is supported, management actions aimed at decreasing the attractiveness of turbines to tree bats may help alleviate the problem.

Publication Year 2008
Title Mating behavior as a possible cause of bat fatalities at wind turbines
DOI 10.2193/2007-371
Authors Paul M. Cryan
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70180872
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center