Fall migration, oceanic movement, and site residency patterns of eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis) on the mid-Atlantic Coast

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2023-06-14
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Along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States, eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis) are present during fall mating and migration, though little is currently known about most aspects of bat migration. To reveal migration patterns, and understand drivers of over-water flight, we captured and radio-tagged 115 eastern red bats using novel technology, and subsequently tracked and described their movements throughout the region. We compared over-water flight movements to randomly generated patterns using a use-availability framework, and subsequently used a generalized linear mixed effects model to assess the relationship of over-water flight to atmospheric variables. We used hidden Markov models to assess daily activity patterns and site residency. Most bats with long-distance movements traveled in a southwesterly direction, however path vectors were often oriented interior toward the continental landmass rather than along the coastline. We observed that some bats transited wide sections of the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, confirming their ability to travel across large water bodies. This over-water flight typically occurred in the early hours of the night and during favorable flying conditions. If flight over large water bodies is a proxy for over-ocean flight, then collision risk at offshore wind turbines – a major source of migratory bat fatalities – may be linked nightly to warm temperatures that occur early in the fall season. Risk, then, may be somewhat predictable and manageable with mitigation options linking wind-energy operation to weather conditions and seasonality.

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Movement Ecology. 2023 Jun 14;11(1):35