Going Batty Over Birds

Migrating songbirds face many hazards

02-01-2002 // Mark Cheater

SONGBIRDS WINGING between their winter habitats and summer breeding grounds face many hazards: bad weather, birds of prey, skyscrapers, communications towers. And one previously unrecognized threat: bats.

Most bat species around the world feed on fruit, insects and other small prey. But researchers in Spain recently found that the greater noctule bat--with an 18-inch wingspan, the largest of its kind in Europe--picks off and eats migratory birds in flight. Greater noctules were previously believed to feed exclusively on insects, but the scientists found that bird remains constituted as much as 45 percent of the bats' feces during the fall and spring, when as many as five billion songbirds cross the Mediterranean to and from Africa. This gives the greater noctule the distinction of being the only bat species in the world known to prey regularly on birds.

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