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Behavioural Response of Bats to Perceived Predation Risk While Foraging


Jennifer M. Psyllakis, Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, BC, V2N 4Z9 Canada. E-mail:


The ability to detect and respond to predation risk while foraging may have important fitness consequences for prey organisms. Anti-predator behaviours may reduce the probability of mortality because of predation, but they may also be associated with reduced foraging efficiency. Several behaviours of bats have been suggested to serve as anti-predator responses, and there is evidence that predation, particularly by avian predators such as owls, may be an important cause of bat mortality. Previous studies have attempted to determine whether predator presence affects bat behaviour when emerging from roost sites, but few have examined effects of predator presence on bat behaviour while foraging. In this study, we investigated whether foraging bats respond to predator cues by presenting bats with an acoustic cue simulating the presence of an owl. Within matched trials, which were conducted at different locations each of 18 nights, significantly fewer bat detections were recorded at owl playback stations than at control stations (no auditory cue), suggesting an avoidance response by bats. An acoustic control (i.e. station playing woodpecker calls), however, did not have significantly more detections than the stations playing the owl calls, suggesting that bats may simply be avoiding noise and more detailed investigation is warranted. Although evidence for owl predation on bats is minimal in North America, results of this study may indicate that the perceived presence of owls may represent a factor influencing the behaviour of bats while foraging.