The use of landscape features and habitats by the lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)

  • Tessa Knight

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

This study examines the diet and foraging behaviour ofRhinolophus hipposideros from maternity colonies in three contrasting landscapes within Britain. Geographical and seasonal variations in diet and habitat selection exist. .Broadleaved woodlands, water, rural settlements and pastures with wooded edge or unmanaged hedges were generally most utilised and broad-leaved tree cover and edge habitats are likely to be of key importance. The presence of non-volant prey in the diet confirms gleaning, but the majority of prey is probably caught on. the wing during aerial hawking, within or close to the tree canopy. Feeding on swarming insects may play a major part in foraging, with dusk, and to a lesser extent dawn, being important foraging times. The first flying bout was significantly longer in the lowland implying feeding is more efficient in the high quality and upland landscapes. Bats flew for on average 57 % of the night but colder temperatures and increasing rainfall resulted in bats flying for longer. They may aim to reach a target of energy consumption, which takes longer in poorer conditions. An average of 2.1-4.5 night roosting bouts were recorded and R. hipposideros may deviate from the more typical bimodal pattern as their broad diet allows them to feed throughout the night. Night roosts were significantly nearer to core foraging areas than the maternity roost and may form an integral part of the core areas. Foraging density was estimated to be 0.09-0.50 batslha. The ranging behaviour was consistent across the three landscapes. Average home range was 147-177 ha and mean n:taximum distance from the maternity roost waS 2 Ian. It is likely that the bats were adopting an optimal behaviour that is constrained by the species' morphology. The implications of the findings for the species' conservation are discussed and management recommendations are made.
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish

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