Monday, February 12, 2007

Animal of the Week February 12, 2007 -- Bird-eating bats

This week's animal of the week is the most large of all the bats that live in Europe and the only bat in the whole world that catches birds in mid-air. For this week's animal of the week is Nyctalus lasiopterus (greater noctule bat).

50 g in weight and a wingspan of 45 cm might not seem that big, but compared with Europe's other scrunchy faced insect guzzling flying furballs, most of which are no bigger than a ping-pong ball, the greater noctule is a gargantuan bat. And insects do not quite satisfy their giant appetite.

Fortunately for the greater noctule bats, they live on migratory routes of small brown songbirds such as wood warblers. The wood warblers and the like think they are being smart by flying at night and avoiding the birds that might otherwise try to snaffle small flying things. But the world's only known mammalian aerial predatory carnivore has a different idea. Scientists investigating these leatherwinged beasts have found a large amount of feather remnants in their droppings, especially during the autumn migration when the number of birds passing through is greatest.

Unlike other noctule bats, which are better adapted for forest flying, these are well adapted to open environments and their echolocation is set at a frequency above that audible to the birds they hunt. Clever bats.


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