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Are Tree Bats Foraging at Wind Turbines in the Southern Great Plains?

[Abstract] Although the ultimate causes of high tree bat fatalities at wind farms are not well understood, several lines of evidence suggest that bats are attracted to wind turbines. One such hypothesis is that bats could be attracted to turbines as a foraging resource if insects that bats prey upon are commonly found on and around turbines. To investigate the foraging attraction hypothesis, we conducted a series of surveys at a wind farm in north‐central Texas from 2012‐2015 to determine if eastern red (Lasiurus borealis) and hoary (Lasiurus cinereus) bats forage on insects near wind turbines. First, we conducted light trapping surveys to characterize the insect community. Second, we assessed bat diets using DNA barcoding of the stomach contents of 45 eastern red and 24 hoary bat carcasses collected in fatality searches. Third, we compared the turbine insect community to the diet analysis results. The insects present at wind turbines were similar to what we found in the bat stomach contents, and those same insects were abundant at turbines throughout the survey period. Together these results provide support for the foraging attraction hypothesis.

Thesis by Cecily Fraser Foo, MS 2016, Department of Biology, Texas Christian University

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