Geographic variation in activity and fatality of migratory bats at wind energy facilities

Baerwald, E. F., and R. M. R. Barclay

Little is known regarding the migratory behavior of bats, due in part to their elusive nature. Recently, however, fatalities of migratory bats at some wind energy facilities across North America have provided the opportunity and impetus to study bat migration at the landscape level. Using acoustic monitoring and carcass searches, we examined variation in activity levels and fatality rates of bats across southern Alberta, Canada, to determine if bat activity and fatality are concentrated in certain areas or evenly distributed across the landscape. To investigate geographical variation in bat activity, we acoustically monitored activity from 15 July to 15 September 2006 and 2007 at 7 proposed or existing wind energy installations across southern Alberta, (155 km between the most westerly wind energy facility and the most easterly). Activity of migratory bats varied among sites, suggesting that, rather than migrating in a dispersed way across a broad area, bats concentrate along select routes. To investigate variation in bat fatality rates among wind energy installations, we compiled fatality data collected between 2001 and 2007 from 6 wind energy facilities and conducted carcass searches at 3 wind energy installations in 2006 and 2007. Fatality rates differed among the 9 sites, partly due to differences in turbine height, but also due to differences in migratory-bat activity and the interaction between bat activity and turbine height. Our results indicate that bats migrate in certain areas and that measuring migratory activity may allow wind energy facilities to be placed so as to minimize bat fatalities.

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Baerwald, E. F., and R. M. R. Barclay. 2009. Geographic variation in activity and fatality of migratory bats at wind energy facilities. Journal of Mammalogy 90:1340-1349.