Potential of bat pass duration measures for studies of bat activity
Acoustic detectors have become increasingly used by bat workers to investigate bat ecology and assess the impacts of anthropogenic pressures. Within these studies, the metric used, ‘bat activity’, is based on the number of bat passes, without considering the bat pass duration (i.e. each event of a bat detected within the range of an ultrasonic detector). We expected that bat pass duration may contain information about site quality in terms of foraging potential. Because bats are expected to have a more sinuous trajectory and slower velocity when they exhibit foraging behaviour, as opposed to commuting behaviour, we hypothesize a longer bat pass duration in favourable habitats; during seasons with important energetic demands; or during night peak activity. We used datasets from a large-scale acoustic bat survey (n = 2890 sites), with a total of 24,597 bat pass measures from 6 taxa, and performed GLMM modelling. We detected a significant effect of habitat type on bat pass duration for five taxa. Shorter bat pass durations were detected at the beginning of the night. We detected longer pass durations during the lactation period or just before hibernating, while weather conditions or ageing and wear of the detector rarely influenced bat pass duration. Bat pass duration appears to be a simple and easy measure for position calls on a gradient between commuting vs. foraging behaviour. We suggest that the traditional measure of bat activity may be weighted by bat pass duration by giving more weight to events with potentially stronger links to foraging behaviour.