Bats of The Bronx: First Known New York City Bat Study Conducted in Our Borough


Just in time for Halloween, The Bronx Zoo (we really find it hard to ever call it the Wildlife Conservation Society) released findings from what is believed to be the first-ever monitoring and study of bats in New York City!

The study opened a tiny window into the world of these creatures and showed evidence that even in the winter (particularly on days with higher than average temperatures) bats were active in NYC.

Four sites (Fordham University, The Bronx Zoo, The New York Botanical Garden, and Belmont—guess even the bats know where NYC’s REAL Little Italy is) were selected in a small area of our borough to record bat activity and identify which species were present by using a SonobatTM. The software is able to actually tell the bat species by the frequencies they emit.

According to Colleen McCann, the Bronx Zoo’s Curator of Mammals, it was exciting to see the results which showed that in a megacity like New York that there were still enough green spaces for these bats and other wildlife—but we’re not surprised given that The Bronx is the greenest borough and home to 3 of the top ten largest parks in NYC. We’re also veterans to wildlife roaming our parks and sometimes backyards.

The Wildlife Conservation Society writes:

The initial study began in May 2012 and identified the presence of five out of a possible nine species found in New York state:Eptesicus fuscus (Big Brown Bat), Lasiurus borealis (Eastern Red Bat), L. cinereus (Hoary Bat), Lasionycteris noctivagans (Silver-haired Bat), and Perimyotis subflavus (Tri-colored Bat).

“When we first began this project, we had no idea what we might learn about bats here in the Bronx,“ said J. Alan Clark, Associate Professor at Fordham University’s Department of Biological Sciences. “The results from our study are both surprising and exciting.” 

Results indicated that all five species of the night-feeders were present at all four Bronx sites, with the majority of recorded activity coming from Eastern Red bats (comprising 62 percent of identified passes of active surveys). “Tree bats,”— foliage-roosting migratory species—were represented by Eastern Red bats, Hoary bats, and Silver-haired bats and accounted for 70 percent of passively recorded calls. Activity was also recorded for these species during the winter months (December thru February) and revealed greater activity on nights with higher maximum daily temperatures. The other species identified during the study hibernate in caves during the winter and use tree cavities and buildings as roosts in summer. 

The authors indicate that the increase in July of Eastern Red bat activity, followed by a peak in August and sharp decline in September suggests migratory movement through New York City as this pattern is consistent with acoustic surveys collected in the Midwest and East Coast in studies by others. In addition, an increase in Silver-haired bat activity occurred in late October—consistent with the timing of coastal migratory movements for this species.

Now don’t be afraid, these bats won’t turn into Dracula and suck your blood because there are no such things as vampires—at least we think!

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