The social structure of three sympatric bat species occupying bat boxes in woodland in southern England was studied: Pipistrellus pipistrellus (pipistrelle), Plecotus auritus (brown long-eared bat) and Myotis nattereri (Natterer's bat). Before parturition, P. pipistrellus populations were heavily skewed towards solitary males. After parturition, the sex ratio was closer to unity. Recaptures of marked bats suggested that after parturition a resident male population of P. pipistrellus is invaded by a transient female population. The sex ratios of populations of P. auritus and M. nattereri were very close to unity, both pre- and post-parturition. The numbers of recaptures of individual bats were similar for both sexes in P. auritus and slightly higher for females in M. nattereri. In the mating season (August-October), solitary male P. pipistrellus were found with small groups (1-9) of females. In contrast, in both P. auritus and M. nattereri, mixed sex groups were found pre- and post-parturition, and roosting groups in the mating season contained up to 20 females and up to 10 males. The stability of female groups in P. auritus appeared to be higher than M. nattereri and P. pipistrellus as known females were found together more frequently. These patterns are discussed with reference to the possible differences in foraging and social behaviour.
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